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With the constant growth in demand for manufactured goods and environmental protections under coordinated assault, there’s never been a more important time for manufacturers to take their part in air pollution seriously.

Readers Choice 2020: How to Prevent Industrial Air Pollution in Manufacturing

Scott Huntington | Off The Throttle

With the constant growth in demand for manufactured goods and environmental protections under coordinated assault, there’s never been a more important time for manufacturers to take their part in air pollution seriously.

Industrial manufacturing, along with the construction industry, were the two largest polluters in 2018, both contributing to the second-largest year-over-year increase in air contaminants in two decades.

Some of the most common airborne pollutants generated by manufacturing and other industrial sectors include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) and solid particulate matter (PM). Experts link these and hundreds of other contaminants to severe health problems in humans and wildlife, environmental degradation and contaminated air and water supplies.

Manufacturers must keep our air clean and healthy. The following provides a look at some of the most effective ways to minimize and prevent industrial air pollution emanating from factories.

1. Make the Switch to Clean Energy Sources

Facilities that use coal or natural gas to generate electricity contribute to water and air pollution all over the world. Scientists also link these resources to breathing problems, heart attacks, neurological damage, cancers and other grave and chronic health problems. Paper and concrete manufacturing plants are some of the heaviest users of fossil fuels in manufacturing, but they are far from alone.

Whereas pollutants from coal are responsible for  a $74.6billion annual impact  on public health in the U.S., clean energy generated from solar and wind contribute no air pollution whatsoever. Biomass and geothermal systems are an acceptable middle-ground — they create some air pollutants, but in vastly lower levels than natural gas — and especially coal-fired plants.

Natural gas is, however, another imperfect but net-positive choice for manufacturers looking for an alternative to more destructive fossil fuels. Natural gas outputs negligible sulfur- and mercury-based pollution.

Additionally, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists,  for every 10,000 homes  — or the equivalent manufacturing facilities — powered with natural gas, global society stands to eliminate 1,900 tons of nitrogen oxide, 3,900 tons of nitrogen oxide and 5,200 tons of particulates per year that would otherwise enter the air and surrounding environment.

2. Use Technology to Destroy Pollutants at the Source

For cases where it’s not feasible to switch to clean energy immediately, some manufacturers turn to a variety of technologies to destroy air pollution at the source before it enters the earth’s atmosphere. These abatement technologies nullify the most destructive air pollutants, like those mentioned above, and reduce the ecological footprint of manufacturing sites.

Several mechanisms are available that provide this functionality, but not all of them are effective for every pollutant. Some of the relevant technologies include:

Catalytic oxidizers : These machines use intense temperatures and chemical catalysts to render air pollutants down into their constituent compounds, which may then be harmlessly released.

Regenerative thermal oxidizers (RTOs) : With RTOs, factories repurpose industrial waste heat to destroy pollutants within networks of heat exchangers.

Rotary concentrators : Like the name suggests, rotary concentrators rotate at high speed to separate air pollution into a hydrophobic media, where an oxidizer destroys it.

Carbon dioxide is perhaps the best-known air pollutant and contributor to climate change, but there are others — including cadmium, mercury, sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide.

Wet scrubbers are another air pollution mitigation technology to consider, and they deliver the benefit of tackling both gaseous waste, like these, as well as particulate matter before it can enter the atmosphere or the surrounding environment.

3. Choose Non-Toxic Materials to Manufacture Goods

Far too many companies rely on supply chains riddled with raw materials that have the potential to become toxic once released into the air and water. Milling and grinding processes, like those that drive paint and coating operations,  release ground-level ozone , VOCs, particulates and heavy metals into the atmosphere, where they impact the health of humans and wildlife.

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that manufacturers identify raw materials and additives containing chromium, mercury and lead, and replace them with non-hazardous biocide alternatives. Doing so maintains these products’ desirable bacteria-eliminating properties without the risk to health and air quality posed by heavy metals.

Styrene is another material to watch for and eliminate from the supply chain. Atomized  styrene can enter the air  while fiberglass and plastics are being manufactured or sprayed in place. Instead of risking kidney disease, chronic fatigue and other health problems, manufacturers can substitute low-styrene gels and resins or use materials that rely on ultraviolet curing instead of traditional methods.

Naturally, there will be times when there aren’t any convenient material substitutions to be made. Silica dust, which comes from quartz, is a common and extremely harmful particulate pollutant generated by the manufacture and installation of masonry products, soils, concrete and other construction products.

Training workers to handle essential materials like these , and providing them with adequate protective equipment and exposure plans is essential under OSHA standards as well as common sense.

4. Deploy More Effective Enterprise Planning Techniques

Imbalances between supply and demand have a more direct impact on air pollution than you might expect. When factories are powered up and cranking out products for which there’s little demand, they are contributing to air pollution unnecessarily.

The act of manufacturing products that aren’t needed contributes to air pollution from one end of the product’s life cycle to the other. In the United States, solid waste in landfills is  the third-largest contributor  to methane emissions. Municipal waste also increases levels of VOCs and other pollutants in the air.

What this means is that manufacturers across the world must find ways to more finely tune the balance between supply and demand and keep unneeded factory activities to a minimum and unwanted products out of the supply chain and distribution networks.

Deloitte points to predictive analytics and machine learning as a way to find this balance. These technologies keep manufacturers, distributors, retailers and customers on the same page with respect to demand for products. They also predict and optimize the best approach to manufacturing activities, production schedules and a host of other supply chain activities so that only essential operations are underway at any given time.

Clean Air Is Good for the Environment and Good for Business

It’s extremely difficult to ignore the importance of eliminating industrial waste, including air pollution. The World Economic Forum  says it plainly enough  — clean air is good for business. The previously mentioned impact on healthcare costs translates into missed shifts and poor productivity. The world could lose  3.8 billion workdays per year  by 2060 if trends continue.

Given all of this, there’s plenty of reason for manufacturers to take air pollution more seriously. Now we know a few ways to do so.

The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

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how to reduce air pollution in factories

There are thousands of industrial facilities around the world, all of which contribute to producing billions of consumer products. While these products may be extremely helpful, their production also puts a huge amount of stress on the environment and our health.

For this reason, the reduction of air pollution has become one of the hottest debate topics in the last 60 years. This article will talk about the different ways that factories and other industrial operations can reduce air pollution and destroy these compounds before they enter our atmosphere.

Common airborne pollutants generated by industrial operations

There are hundreds of different air pollutants that can be found in any given part of the world. However, the most dangerous emissions generated by industrial operations can be divided into three categories. These are:

Volatile organic compounds , known as VOCs, are airborne pollutants that may cause both short and long-term health conditions in humans. These organic chemicals can originate from a variety of operations, with two of the most common being paint and adhesive manufacturing.

Hazardous air pollutants are chemicals that are suspected or known to cause grave health complications. These include cancer, autoimmune diseases, nervous system conditions, respiratory complications, and many more.

Solid Particulate Matter

Solid particulate matter , simply referred to as PM , is a group used to describe airborne pollutants like dirt, debris, and smoke. As the name indicates, particulate matter can be made up of tiny fragments of virtually anything – from organic residue to synthetic compounds and micro-pollutants.

How to reduce air pollution from factories

Paint manufacturing facilities and other operations need to meet specific EPA requirements in order to stay open. At the same time, many factory managers and company owners focus on reducing air pollution because they are aware of the potential negative impact it may have.

The two most common ways companies can reduce their air pollution emissions are:

Optimizing the factory’s operations

Greener, more energy-efficient operations tend to reduce the amount of pollution a factory generates. Companies can optimize different parts of their operation to save energy, thus reducing the facility’s overall emissions.

Destroying pollutants before they enter the atmosphere

Factory operators can also employ abatement mechanisms that help destroy VOCs, HAPs, and other pollutants before they enter the environment. Different abatement techniques are efficient for specific types of pollutants, so you need to evaluate your operation to find the ideal technique. Four of the most commonly used abatement techniques include:

Regenerative Thermal Oxidizer

Known as RTOs, regenerative thermal oxidizers employ high temperatures to destroy pollutants before they are released into the environment. The energy of the actual industrial operation is used in the abatement process whenever possible, which involves a network of high-efficiency heat exchangers.

Recuperative Thermal Oxidizer

Recuperative thermal oxidizers also referred to as TOs, rely on high temperatures and heavy-duty steel heat exchangers to destroy VOCs before they enter the atmosphere.

Catalytic Oxidizer

Catalytic oxidizers use a combination of chemical catalysts and high temperatures to break down pollutants into harmless compounds.

Oxidizers with Rotary Concentrators

Rotary concentrators combined with oxidizers are ideal for chemical processing, surface coating, and wood finishing facilities, just to name a few.

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how to reduce air pollution in factories

6 Ways to Reduce Factory Pollution

By Julia Davis | August 2, 2022

Industrial waste from factories is inevitable. And the ways factories manage that waste affect the surrounding environment, as well as human health. If not properly disposed of, industrial waste can contaminate soil, air, and water.

But there are points throughout a factory’s lifespan, and its entire production process, where changes can be made to reduce the pollution they produce and ensure proper precautions are in place to protect the environment around them.

1. Building Factories in the Right Place

The best way to reduce pollution in important ecosystems is to keep them from harm’s way in the first place. When new industrial sites are being built, it is important to factor in location and the potential impact the site would have on the surrounding environment. Characteristics such as climate and topography significantly affect how pollutants spread, and these factors also need to be considered. As we continue to build factories and industrial sites, making smart decisions about their locations can help reduce the impacts of the inevitable waste that comes from the factory.


2. Powering Factories with Renewable Energy

Energy consumption is one of the main contributors to factory air pollution. Therefore, factories that require less energy to operate produce less air pollution. A large-scale shift to using renewable energy sources to power factories would result in less pollution over time and could also save factories money in the long run. But the initial investment in greener energy sources is often a hurdle that prevents many factories from making the switch to renewables, even if it makes financial and environmental sense when looking at the bigger picture.

Windmills and solar panels

3. Analyzing Factory Waste

Waste at a recycling facility

Pollution is tied to waste that is created during the production process. But before factories can effectively work on decreasing waste, they need an accurate picture of the waste at hand. By analyzing their waste output, factories can determine the amounts of different types of waste like food waste, chemical waste, glass, paper, and other elements. Once they have a clear picture of where they are making waste, it’s much easier to make processes more efficient by upgrading equipment, reorganizing inventory, and establishing recycling systems for reusing materials at various stages of production.

4. Proper Treatment of Factory Waste

The proper treatment of waste at the end of the production process is key to reducing factory pollution. Waste treatment is defined as the practice of changing the properties of industrial hazardous waste and making it less harmful. These changes can be physical, chemical, or biological. Physical treatments are processes that may change the shape or size of the waste. In contrast, chemical treatments use chemicals to alter the composition of the waste, and biological treatments use organisms to break down waste components into simpler organic matter and biomass. Treating waste in these ways before it leaves the facility allows factories to reduce the volume and toxicity of their waste before disposal.

Man treating waste in a recycling facility

5. Factories Must Run Environmental Impact Assessments

Companies should perform regular environmental impact assessments within their factories to identify potential harmful impacts their waste may have on the natural ecosystem. If harmful impacts are discovered in this assessment, it is the company’s responsibility to take the necessary actions required to address the problem, and correct any negative consequences that have developed.

Men surveying a waste facility

6. Laws and Enforcement Can Help Prevent Factory Waste

Gavel and law books in a courtroom

In addition to implementing these regulations, it is equally important for governmental agencies to take firm action against industries that do not follow pollution protocols and offer significant rewards for companies that operate within guidelines.

Image credits: Factory ( The Ruwais Refinery by Rickmaj is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 ); Windmills and solar panels ( Renewable Energy on the Grid by Kenueone is licensed under CC0 1.0 ); Recycling facility ( African Waste Management Experts Visit Rwanda E-Waste Recycling Facility – Rwanda Green Fund Investment by Rwanda Green Fund is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0 ); Man treating waste ( African Waste Management Experts Visit Rwanda E-Waste Recycling Facility – Rwanda Green Fund Investment by Rwanda Green Fund is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0 ); Men in facility ( Acting Secretary Wolf Tours Marine Terminal Facility (8) by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security); Gavel and books ( Court Gavel – Judge’s Gavel – Courtroom by wp paarz is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 )

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What Are the Ways to Make Factories Eco-friendly?

But how exactly can factories impact the environment?

Some industry leaders are now starting to build factories that are friendlier to the environment, cheaper, and, consequently, that create more space for workers.

The manufacturing industry may be facing some challenges but there’s no denying that factories are still serving their purpose—to turn raw materials into actual consumable goods at maximum profit.

Effects of Factories to The Environment

There’s no doubt that factories have majorly contributed to the damage caused to the environment—air pollution, toxic waste, and water contamination. In fact, they are actually responsible for two-thirds of greenhouse emissions.

Due to the toxic and dangerous materials that it releases to our environment, not only does our planet suffer but our health is affected as well.

While it’s true that factories are not the only contributors to the damage that continues to ruin our planet at a rapid pace but they are one of the major contributors.

Here are some ways in which factories contribute to the man-made damage being done to our planet:

Air Pollution

Industrial factories are major contributors to air pollution. The amount of toxic gases that factories release into the air increases health and environmental damages.

Global warming leads to rise in the Earth’s temperature

Global warming leads to rise in the Earth’s temperature

Global Warming

In factories, toxic materials and gases, like carbon dioxide and methane, are burned and pumped out into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide and methane absorb radiation from the sun and, therefore, affect the temperature of the planet directly.

Global warming leads to rising sea levels, rise in the Earth’s temperature, risk of extinction of different animal species, increase in tsunamis, hurricanes, floods, and other natural disasters, and melting of the ice caps.

Factory pollution do not only affect our planet but also our health. More on this later.

Health threats

Did you know that air pollution causes more deaths than malaria and AIDS/HIV?

But it’s not only that. Here are some other impacts of air pollution:

Additionally, US factories emit 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage and industrial waste into water every year, discharge 3 million tons of toxic chemicals, and consume nearly 16 billion gallons of water per day.

But on the bright side, there are already several industry leaders that are reinventing the way the run factories to help the environment and to improve the atmosphere inside for the workers. By integrating updated green building standards, some factories run while also contributing to the planet—with sunnier spaces, healthier air, and total self-sufficiency.

These factories produce their own energy, reuse water, reducing—if not eliminating altogether—waste, and use materials made from sustainable sources. But luckily, this kind of process model doesn’t necessarily cost more than the traditional model and it even saves money on energy, encourages workers to be more productive, and creates better, higher-quality products.

It may sound too good to be true but Industrial Louvers, a 46-year-old company, is actually doing it! Located 30 miles west of Minneapolis, they’re one of the earliest adopters of the sustainable approach.

In October 2017, Industrial Louvers built a new 50,000-square-foot addition to their factory where they make custom louvers, decorative grills, sunshades, and screens for building exteriors.

This expansion will house an entirely new production line that’s free of toxic chemicals that are usually found in the aluminum industry. The stronger roof will hold the photovoltaic solar panels which they are looking to install by around 2022.

The electricity produced by these panels will run the energy-intensive compressors and other electric machinery. The roof will also have the ability to harvest rainwater that will take 60,000 gallons of water to an underground holding tank—which they will then use for the wash system at then end of the production line.

The company’s director of sales and marketing, Lisa Britton, says she expects that the rainwater system supply at least 25 to 100 percent of their needs.

Energy-cost savings may not be as high because they’re also expanding their facilities and modifying their production line. But the company sees it as an investment in the industry and its employees.

They will be able to improve the air quality in the building by removing the toxic chemicals. This already benefits their employees in such a big way but they’ll be more benefits as well—windows and skylights in this new building will bring natural light into the whole facility.

Reinhardt says “happier, healthier employees are better workers,” she adds, “They’re more productive, efficient, and loyal. We feel it pays off there. We want this to be a place where people enjoy coming to work.”

This is all great news. But now, you might be thinking that making factories that are good for the environment is a lot of work—it’s not. There are a lot of ways you can give back to the environment.

Try repairing it or replacing some parts but if it doesn’t lead to improvement

Try repairing it or replacing some parts but if it doesn’t lead to improvement

Reduce Water Consumption

Aside from saving energy, this can also lead to more time saved—helping you attain a faster turnaround time and avoid bottlenecks. Plus, it might also improve your output!

Furthermore, factory equipment releases high, if not excessive, amounts of waste heat energy. Companies can consider investing in cogeneration systems to use all these wasted energy to your advantage. Cogeneration systems use the heat energy released by the equipment to moderately heat what you need it to heat such as water or spaces.

As we’ve mentioned earlier, an energy audit can help pinpoint equipment and processes that need the most improvement.

Factories produce a lot product waste as well. Instead of tossing everything out, evaluate them to see if there is anything that you can reuse not just in the manufacturing process but also for the use of the whole facility. You can also try and educate your employees to differentiate waste from recyclable materials.

You may also try reaching out to different communities or educational institutes to see if they’d be interested in waste factory materials. For example, they might be able to recycle and even upcycle scrap metal or wood for some projects.

If these are not feasible for your company, try to segregate your waste properly.

One of the most common solution that companies use is installing solar panels

One of the most common solution that companies use is installing solar panels

Utilize Renewable Energy Sources

This is a bigger-scale change but it surely reduces your carbon footprint. You can choose from wind, solar, and geothermal—and those are just some of the options.

One of the most common solution that companies use is installing solar panels. Many governments recognize green efforts and offer companies tax credits and subsidies to allow for more ROI and encourage more companies to follow suit.

If a 360-degree transition is not feasible due to resource or financial constraints, factories may consider using a combination of renewable and traditional sources.

As we know, every little effort helps.

Factory owners that make the effort to improve company culture

Factory owners that make the effort to improve company culture

Improve Company Culture

Factory owners that make the effort to improve company culture to make it more eco-friendly are more likely to attract employees that value the same efforts.

Now, if your employees believe in what your company is trying to do, they are more likely to work hard to help you achieve your company’s mission. This means a smoother transition to being greener and happier employees.

What your company can do to improve the internal culture is to focus on educational or training programs that would show your employees how they can contribute to reducing your company’s carbon footprint over time. It would also help if you can show them concrete goals and timelines.

You should already be thinking about being more sustainable or contributing to the environment. But if you’re yet to do so, now is the best time to start. Change can be difficult but, luckily, there’s already a lot of technology and solutions to help ease the transition. All you need to do now is to take action—no matter how big or small.

This solution can help you cut your paper usage significantly: electronic shelf labels .

Contact us today to see how we can help you go green.

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