Sustainability in Manufacturing
How to Start an Oil Absorbent Reuse Program at your Facility
As more companies prioritize sustainability, ISO 14001, and zero-landfill objectives, sending oil absorbents to landfills is no longer a viable option.
A new kind of oil absorbent is being adopted as the preferred choice in industry – launderable, reusable oil absorbents.
In fact, manufacturers like Eaton, Dresser-Rand, Sloan Valve, Rexnord, and American Axle are utilizing a reuse program and have diverted millions of lbs of waste from landfills as a result.
The Challenge with Disposable Absorbents
Sending soiled oil absorbents to landfills is not a sustainable option. Incineration is not ideal, either. While incineration eliminates your company’s landfill liability, the smoke discharge can create harmful emissions such as nitrogen oxide, particulates, heavy metals, acid gasses, and the carcinogen dioxin.
For more on disposal options and environmental impact, check out The Ultimate Guide: How to Dispose of Used Rags and Oil Absorbents.
Recycling vs. Reuse
While often used interchangeably, there is a difference between a recycled and reusable oil absorbent.
Recycling means turning an item into raw materials that can be used again, usually for a completely new product. Several recycled absorbents on the market contain recycled material, such as old rags or t-shirts. Absorbent recycling services will repurpose absorbent mats, pads, and socks as fuel or blended waste. However, recycled absorbents may still end up in a landfill.
Reuse, on the other hand, refers to using an object again without breaking it down. Reuse, unlike recycling, offers a closed-loop process.
Reuse is preferred over recycling. It consumes less energy and eliminates a waste stream.
Reuse offers several key benefits over single-use pig mats and recycling services:
- Closed-loop program generated zero waste.
- Waste oils are captured and recycled to reduce environmental impact.
- Supports sustainability, waste reduction, and ISO 14001 initiatives
- Can reduce costs by eliminating waste hauling or incineration fees
- Reusable mats and pads are more durable and absorbent, which supports housekeeping and safety.
How to Reuse your Oil Absorbents
To reuse oil absorbents, you will need to remove the spent oil from the absorbent. You can do this one of two ways:
- Oil absorbent pad wringer (squeezes the oil out)
- Laundering the absorbents
For mechanical and hand wringing, you can purchase special equipment to complete this process. You will need special, durable absorbents that can handle the wringing process while maintaining product integrity. Keep in mind you will need to dedicate time and space in your facility to house the equipment and air dry the absorbents. If the absorbents are put in storage before completely dry, they could become moldy.
For laundering, you will want to outsource this process to an industrial laundry that is properly set up to handle oil-laden material. Laundering of such material also requires special EPA permitting. The advantage is that it does not require any additional resources of time or space in your facility.
With a laundering service, the industrial laundry will provide special absorbents that can withstand laundering. Similar to a towel rental service, your soiled absorbents get picked up, laundered, and returned to you for reuse.
SorbIts® is ITU AbsorbTech’s exclusive line of launderable, reusable oil absorbents. With our managed service, you get a fresh supply of clean oil absorbents delivered to your facility on a regular schedule.
Eaton, Dresser-Rand, and American Axle are just a few of the many manufacturers that have implemented a SorbIts® reuse program to save time, support safety, and eliminate a waste stream. Collectively, that have diverted over 5,000 lbs of waste from landfill last year. Below are a few pictures of their sustainability certificates.
The Bottom Line
Starting a reusable oil absorbent program at your facility is a relatively simple process and can help your company divert thousands of pounds of oil absorbent waste from landfills every year.
Do your research and choose an industrial laundering company that is properly permitted and will handle your waste responsibly.