CHARDON, Ohio—Rubber chemicals supplier Rhein Chemie Corp. has made several environmentally beneficial upgrades at its Chardon plant, and the changes are paying off.
Beginning in 2008, Rhein Chemie—part of Mannheim-Rheinau, Germany-based rubber chemicals producer Rhein Chemie Rheinau GmbH and parent company Lanxess A.G.—implemented a package of green initiatives designed to improve energy efficiency and reduce waste in Chardon, an investment of more than $250,000 over the past two years.
The improvements have produced measurable savings. “Environmental improvements and cost savings often go hand in hand,” said Hector Diaz-Stringel, Rhein Chemie Corp. president.
One major overhaul at the plant was a lighting exchange project where the previous system was replaced. Rhein Chemie Corp. added new high-bay fluorescent fixtures that use electronic ballasts and F32 T-8 high-lumen lamps.
Since being implemented, the upgrade has reduced general lighting usage by 11 percent, the company said. The lighting system offers “instant-on” capabilities—allowing the light power to reach full potential without a warm-up period—and improves the quality of light in the plant by raising the Color Rendering Index to 85 from 62.
Also, by offering lighting products that increase lamp life to 30,000 hours from 20,000 hours and don't require special disposal, Rhein Chemie anticipates saving more than 10 percent on its electrical costs over the next 10 years.
The firm also replaced machines at the facility that were heated and cooled using water with equipment that utilizes an electric, closed-loop system for heating and cooling, Diaz-Stringel said. Through these changes, the company has trimmed its water consumption by 50 percent year-over-year since 2008.
Rhein Chemie also has strived to cut waste in its manufacturing processes, and the reduction of its pelletizing systems from two to one—using a new technology—has exemplified that initiative. The system is used to convert product into pellet form, and they generate unsellable waste particles during the cutting and drying process, the company said.
By reducing the number of pelletizing systems running simultaneously, waste has been cut by 60 percent, productivity has been increased by 17 percent and the changeover time decreased to two hours from 12 hours, the firm said.
“This new system is more efficient than the two previous systems,” Diaz-Stringel said. “It has reduced waste volume, reducing waste administration time, warehouse storage and the number of waste pickups. Less time spent on waste disposal has allowed more time for value-added activities.”
Rhein Chemie—which achieved environmental management-related Responsible Care RC14001 certification in 2008—also recycles the waste oil produced in its manufacturing processes by shipping it to other companies who reuse it. The project reduces the oil disposed in landfills by 30 to 50 drums, or about 3,000 gallons, per year.
Other ongoing green initiatives include recycling of batteries, print cartridges and plastic bottles; a “no Styrofoam” policy for beverage containers; and new dispersions made with renewable resources to reduce the scrap rate and use fewer chemicals. Rhein Chemie also began purchasing green energy—electricity generated from renewable solar, hydro or wind sources—in May from a third-party supplier.
“The energy improvements we've made in Chardon make perfect business sense, because the long-term savings greatly outweigh the short-term costs,” Diaz-Stringel said.
“We're pleased with the accomplishments we made thus far with our package of efficiency initiatives. We employ environmentally responsible practices throughout our business and will continue to do so in the future.”