Increasing focus on sustainable manufacturing

GREEN manufacturing in Australia continues to gather momentum with an increasing focus by many companies on sustainability as a key component in business planning.

GREEN manufacturing in Australia continues to gather momentum with an increasing focus by many companies on sustainability as a key component in business planning.

Basell Australia, a LyondellBasell company, is the sole manufacturer of polypropylene (PP) in Australia with plants at Geelong and Clyde in Sydney’s west.

The company employs around 175 people. LyondellBasell’s products, including polyethylene (PE), are used as base materials in the manufacture of a wide range of industrial and domestic applications.

Customers utilise bulk supplies of Basell Australia’s plastic PP pellets to manufacture products such as film, fibre, automotive parts, domestic appliance components, furniture, containers and even Australian banknotes.

According to David Stannard, site manager at the company’s Geelong plant, which has a capacity of 130 tonnes per year, some 35% of Basell Australia’s production is exported, particularly to China and South East Asia.

“Following a major $150 million expansion of the Geelong plant in 2006, a significant reduction in energy requirements has been achieved.

“This is due to the installation of a new high-tech Propylene Propane splitter distillation column, which uses 85% less energy than the previous design.

“Resource conservation is part of our continual environmental improvement program which also includes water saving and waste reduction”, he told Manufacturers’ Monthly.

“Current water saving initiatives include the use of recycled water instead of potable water for cooling towers. Environmental considerations are adopted throughout the entire product life cycle to minimise environmental impact through waste reduction, product reuse and recycling.

“Basell Australia has a policy of continuous improvement, including protection of the environment in which it operates.

“In cooperation with the Environment Protection Authority, we have developed a comprehensive environmental management system with a focus on areas such as waste minimisation, safe treatment and disposal of wastes, and prevention of air, water and soil pollution.

“We are exploring ways to incorporate sustainable business growth principles into the company’s business processes and management systems.

“In product development and innovation there is an emphasis on greater resource efficiency, together with life cycle principles and sustainable development criteria.

“The company is also a voluntary participant in the Australian Government’s Greenhouse Challenge program which involves monitoring and reporting on greenhouse gas emissions from the Geelong plant and implementation of an action plan to reduce energy consumption.”

Sustainable program

With a head office in the Melbourne suburb of Tullamarine, and a workforce of more than 1,200, Schiavello designs and manufactures a wide range of demountable partitions, workstations, furniture and storage facilities for client organisations.

The company introduced a sustainable manufacturing program about 11 years ago with impressive results. Environmental manager, Michael Pitcher, says the waste reduction program alone has saved the company around $58,000 per year, which is the equivalent of saving 1,000 tonnes of CO² each year.

“In addition, paper and cardboard recycling has resulted in the equivalent saving each year of 600 trees, 118 barrels of oil and 900 cubic metres of landfill. Some 1.5 megalitres of water and 900,000 kilowatt hours of energy is also being saved each year, and we are about to install a water recycling unit on the metal powder coating line which should result in further water savings of 10 megalitres per year”, he said.

“In relation to energy usage, this is down by some 23% over five years, mainly due to more efficient use of gas in the powder coating area and the introduction of more efficient technology.

“Schiavello utilises a life-cycle assessment approach to the design of products with the aim of reducing their environmental impact throughout their life,” he said.

This method includes identification of energy inputs and outputs in production, consumption and product disposal, and evaluates the environmental implications of alternative materials.

“The company has also developed its own Environmental Rating Tool (ERT) which goes beyond the current Green Star Materials Calculator and the Good Environment Choice Australia (GECA) standard.

“The ERT is an evaluation tool to describe the environmental performance of products and to establish benchmarks. It has 16 elements with a percent score for each element and covers environmental criteria such as recycled content, embodied energy, renewable materials, packaging and durability.”

“Schiavello’s concern for the environment is also reflected in the construction of its new corporate headquarters. A wide range of green building principles has been incorporated including materials used, and the internal fit-out is designed to reduce energy and water consumption.

“A total building automation system provides fully programmable control and management of air conditioning/heating, blinds, access control, security, and efficient lighting.

“Rainwater from the roof is captured and used to water plants around the site, and internal plumbing fixtures include 5A rated dual flush toilets, reduced flow taps and showers, and waterless urinals that save about 800,000 litres of water per year,” he added.

Both Basell Australia and Schiavello are recent inductees into the Victorian Manufacturing Hall of Fame.