By: Andrew Rhinehart
The modern manufacturing era has changed the world in more ways than one. As technology and techniques continue to improve, people can access a more comprehensive array of products with higher quality and affordable prices. The industry has helped raise the standard of living in various ways worldwide, both by providing goods and employment.
However, not all of the effects manufacturing has had on the world are as positive. As the size and scope of activity worldwide evolve, its environmental impact has become a sharp focus. Manufacturers and consumers have become much more aware of how the production of goods consumes natural resources and pollutes the air, sea and land.
New regulations have been established to curtail many of the most harmful practices. Many people have changed their shopping habits to support companies that take proactive steps to shrink their ecological footprints. This means manufacturers that take the time to minimize or reverse their actions’ effect on the world around them will be in a better position than those that don’t.
Making Manufacturing More Sustainable
Fortunately, there are several steps a manufacturer can take to become more eco-friendly. These include upgrading the equipment to energy-efficient models that consume fewer resources or sourcing closer to facilities to reduce transportation costs.
Sometimes, choosing packaging that features recyclable materials is enough to make a big difference in the impact a product line can have on the environment.
One of the most significant factors in determining the sustainability of manufacturing is the materials that are used in the process. Although choosing those that come from local sources can be a step in the right direction, selecting suitable materials is perhaps one of the most essential choices a manufacturer can make.
Sustainable Materials for Manufacturing
There are several ways in which the choice of material can make a significant difference in sustainability. For example, many materials can be recycled or come from recyclable sources. These include aluminum alloys and ground glass. By recycling these materials, manufacturing operations can reduce the waste that finds its way into landfills. It also helps preserve resources by slowing the rate at which they are consumed.
In many cases, recycling also can be more energy-efficient than using virgin materials. Other materials earn their eco-friendly reputation by reducing the amount of pollution that is released into the atmosphere. These include powder coating, which, unlike paint, contains no volatile organic compounds. Non-flammable solvents also produce fewer emissions and reduce the risk of employees being exposed to hazardous fumes.
Many environmentally sound materials make manufacturing processes more efficient. For example, installing large pieces of polystyrene foam on the ceilings of factories and processing plants reduces the air space that must be kept cool or warm. This means HVAC systems run less frequently, reducing energy consumption overall. Another example is using ferro-coke in the ironmaking process, which helps conserve energy and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Other materials provide a more eco-conscious alternative to traditional choices. One is biopolymers, which replace petroleum-based plastics in packaging and other applications. Because these are made from biodegradable ingredients, they reduce the amount of plastic in landfills. Vegetable oil-based emulsifiers serve as a replacement for phthalates that present a better solution for specific products.
Finding More Sustainable Solutions
Manufacturers have a responsibility not only to their customers and shareholders but also to the world at large. Becoming a more sustainable operation means reducing the resources used and the harm done to the planet’s ecosystem. However this may sound like an arduous task, but making a few changes can have a significant effect.
Look at the accompanying resources to learn more about eco-friendly manufacturing materials and how they improve sustainability.
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Andrew Rhinehart is Chief Financial Officer for Rhinehart Finishing, a family-owned finishing company that specializes in zinc phosphate pretreatment, powder coating and liquid spray coatings — with an emphasis on meeting military and defense specifications. He has 15 years of experience in the industry and focuses on managing the financial actions of Rhinehart Finishing. https://www.rhinehartfinishing.com/