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How To Reduce Your Carbon Emissions by Recycling Solvents On-Site (A Comparison of Recycling Methods)

Moving toward net-zero emissions is a budding goal of many manufacturers in today’s green landscape. The how and why may not always seem straightforward when examining all your options. Let us help demystify the world of on-site recycling and how it can positively impact your emissions.

Table of Contents

Countdown to Net-Zero Emissions

Limiting carbon emissions is of utmost importance to attaining the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. Signed by 195 nations, or 98% of the world’s population, the agreement seeks to limit global warming to no more than 1.5℃ compared to pre-industrial times and to get to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Governments and consumers are putting increased pressure on the manufacturing sector to adopt sustainable practices that limit GHG emissions. The data associated with this activity must also be made public and presented in a visible and concise manner. Switching to renewable energy sources and raw material substitution are large-scale, expensive projects that can be undertaken to reduce emissions. On-site solvent recycling, on the other hand, can be a simple, cost-effective, and extremely effective way to reduce carbon emissions, provided the right system is put in place.

Off-Site Handling of Hazardous Solvent Waste

Many manufacturing industries rely on the use of solvents in production. Flexible packaging businesses, for example, use solvent blends to clean their presses when switching between inks. And paint and automobile manufacturers use solvents to clean their paint lines and vessels when color changes occur. Once collected after cleaning, however, the solvent waste becomes a hazardous material that needs to be dealt with.

There are a few ways that hazardous solvent waste can be dealt with, each with varying degrees of environmental impact in terms of GHG emissions. Traditionally, manufacturing facilities would dispose of this solvent waste off-site by transporting it to a waste facility for incineration or fuel blending. Once shipped to the waste facility, the company would pay a per gallon rate for solvent waste disposal, depending on the method. Incineration is the most expensive and environmentally irresponsible method of disposal because the available solvent contained in the waste is simply being burned into the atmosphere for no purpose, releasing huge amounts of GHGs into the atmosphere. Fuel blending is a much cheaper and environmentally conscious way to dispose of solvent waste, as the waste company puts the available BTUs in the solvent waste to good use by mixing with commercial fuel to fire things like cement kilns, industrial furnaces, etc. Although still a GHG heavy practice, fuel blending puts otherwise incinerated solvent waste to use rather than using virgin fuel.

Over the last few decades, waste facilities and third-party vendors have started recycling solvents and offering that service to their customers. Through huge, multi-storied distillation columns, waste facilities can recover portions of usable solvent to sell back to their customers at a discount or broker for sale to other customers. By recycling solvent for re-use, businesses greatly reduce their GHG emissions and overall carbon footprint. Our seemingly inextricable dependence on the fossil fuel industry is what keeps our GHG emissions high, and by swapping recycled solvent in where virgin solvent has been traditionally used, we greatly reduce our environmental impact.

Unfortunately, off-site solvent recycling has its limitations. For one, waste facilities’ enormous distillation columns typically only produce a 50-60% yield of fresh solvent. The 40-50% that becomes waste would then be committed to the aforementioned processes such as incineration and fuel blending, which we know are both heavy carbon emitting practices. Secondly, off-site solvent recycling always involves the risk of cross-contamination of waste streams. When dealing with so many solvent waste streams on such a large scale, there is always going to be contamination. Some manufacturing facilities can handle impure recycled solvent in their cleaning and production process, but many cannot. And when the recycled solvent is deemed not fit for use, it’s usually used for incineration or fuel blending as well. Thirdly, off-site solvent recycling involves the shipping of hazardous solvent waste. According to the EPA, emissions from transportation account for up to 15% of all GHGs released into the atmosphere. By limiting the amount of solvent waste we transport, we greatly reduce automobile emissions. We also eliminate the cradle to grave liability of shipping hazardous waste. Anything can happen to your solvent waste in transit, and your facility is on the hook for it until it reaches the waste facility.

On-Site Solvent Recycling

The next logical step for solvent waste handling towards net-zero emissions and even greater sustainability is on-site solvent recycling. Technological advances in on-site solvent recyclers over the last few decades have led to rapid adoption in manufacturing facilities around the globe. You can purchase batch units that run as little as 5 gallons of solvent waste at a time to larger, continuous units that are capable of recycling thousands of gallons per day.

By recycling solvent on-site you reduce GHG emissions in a number of ways. First, when you recycle solvent for reuse, you reduce your virgin solvent usage. By doing so, you are lowering the demand for emission heavy practices associated with producing petroleum products. Second, you reduce the amount of solvent waste being processed through GHG emitting practices like incineration and fuel blending. Third, you reduce your hazardous waste shipments, thus decreasing GHG emissions tied to transportation.

Although on-site solvent recycling can help reduce carbon footprints and waste shipments, there are certainly limitations with traditional units. For one, they can be difficult and messy to operate and maintain. They’re also not as efficient and do not have the technology to produce a quality recycled solvent, resulting in the need to purchase more virgin make up. More often than not, these units end up sitting in the corner because either no one wants to or knows how to operate and maintain it. And in terms of monitoring and reporting on data related to GHG emissions and carbon footprint, they lack the technological sophistication required. So, although traditional on-site solvent recyclers represent a huge improvement compared to off-site disposal and recycling, there is a lot more that can be done to mitigate our carbon footprint when it comes to solvent recycling.

Service365: CleanPlanet’s Revolutionary
On-Site Solvent Recycling Solution

As the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement loom large in the Earth’s collective consciousness, we recognize a real sense of urgency. The manufacturing sector is under intense pressure to become as streamlined and transparent as possible when it comes to waste generation and GHG emissions. The last stage in the evolution of solvent recycling – and the most efficient and technologically advanced in the history of the industry – is CleanPlanet’s line of AlwaysClean solvent recyclers.

CleanPlanet’s line of AlwaysClean solvent recyclers produce a higher yield of recycled solvent from the distillation process than other units on the market. With the patented Precision Distillation technology, the solvent recyclers yield up to 95% of available solvent from waste streams, thus greatly reducing reliance on virgin solvent make-up, which we know is a GHG emitting heavy practice. The reduction of waste being produced and shipped out also reduces carbon footprint in two ways: less waste sent for incineration and fuel blending, and less fossil fuels being burned to transport the waste to a facility. Businesses in the manufacturing sector will not only save themselves capital by reducing their dependence on expensive virgin solvent, but they’ll also do so in an environmentally sustainable manner due to the amount of GHGs spared from the atmosphere.

As we move closer to the deadlines set forth in the Paris Climate Agreement (45% emission reductions by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050), it is inevitable that the largest emitters in the manufacturing sector will be put under immense scrutiny and pressure by governments and consumers to reduce their environmental impact. The growing trend is to provide more concrete data related to our carbon footprint and GHGs emitted. As outlined above, on-site solvent recycling represents the most advanced solution for dealing with solvent waste, but reporting this data in a specific and organized manner can prove challenging. CleanPlanet Chemical’s line of AlwaysClean solvent recyclers all come equipped with the MyCleanPlanet portal, which is a real-time monitoring platform that reports on a plethora of data sets related to info like recycling yield, waste produced, energy consumed, GHG emissions reduced, etc.

To summarize, there are three key ways that on-site solvent recycling reduces manufacturers’ carbon footprint. First, being less reliant on virgin solvent make-up reduces the range of emissions associated with extracting raw petroleum, refining it and shipping it as virgin solvent. Second, there is less solvent waste being disposed of or recycled in less efficient manners off-site. The more efficient the method, the less GHG emissions tied to the practice. Third, when a facility reduces the amount of hazardous waste they ship, they reduce the GHG emissions tied to transportation. With CleanPlanet’s line of AlwaysClean solvent recyclers, you can rest assured you’re maximizing your environmental impact. More efficient and with greater visibility, you can prove to the world that you’re putting your best foot forward to combat climate change.

Increased Visibility Leads to Profitability in the Manufacturing Sector

As pressure mounts to attain our climate goals, the manufacturing sector will be held more accountable for its overall carbon footprint. Rather than seeing this as a nail in the coffin for doing business, we need to see it as an opportunity to pivot and evolve. Large manufacturers in the automobile sector already require their vendors to track and disclose emissions tied to their practices. They then purchase materials based on who is making the most effort to reduce their carbon footprint and GHG emissions. 

With the MyCleanPlanet platform, you can monitor how much solvent you are recycling, how much waste you are mitigating, and how much you are reducing your carbon footprint. You can then export this data into a spreadsheet so you can prove that your business is doing its best to tackle climate change. This level of technological sophistication is unmatched in the industry and is key to CleanPlanet’s commitment to helping its customers attain their ongoing carbon emission reduction goals. We also recognize that visibility is going to be key to doing business in the manufacturing sector and can even be used as a selling feature. The more your business does to mitigate climate change, the more likely customers are to do business with you. CleanPlanet will help you remain profitable and stay true to your net-zero commitments.

Want to learn more about how to monitor your solvent recycler? 

Want to learn more about reaching your Net-Zero emission goals?

AlwaysClean 350 smart solvent recycler

Begin to reduce solvent costs, waste, and liabilities the modern way!


Begin to reduce costs, waste and liabilities the modern way.


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