For the past five years, Momentive’s New Smyrna Beach, Florida, acrylic sealant plant has been a hotbed of sustainability-oriented activity. Under the leadership of John Noell, a site-wide, team-based initiative has implemented 10 different plans to address the plant’s operational, environmental and social impacts. Projects have covered everything from increasing product safety and reducing the risk of employee exposures, to toxic emissions, waste minimization, regulatory compliance management and utility demand—no stone has been left unturned.
Noell’s vision? Try to make the greenest plant possible—a zero footprint.
No room at the inn
It all started because there wasn’t enough warehouse space. Three acrylic sealant product platforms designed by three different sources meant having to store 180 different chemical ingredients. A goal was set to reformulate the products and shave this raw material inventory down to 100. When the 2009 CARB (California Air Resources Board) regulations came out requiring products with very low to no VOCs, the plant’s redesign efforts expanded to include lowering hazard levels of all kinds.
With the expert help of Gabriele Machel, site R&D/QA leader, the lean redesign project systematically analyzed each chemical’s performance contributions while reviewing the chemical’s hazard and risk profiles.
A remarkable achievement
Here are some of the highlights of the New Smyrna Beach team’s efforts:
- 57 chemicals were eliminated from 2007 to 2012 (33 percent) in Acrylic production.
- Acrylic sealant product VOCs were reduced via reformulation to approximately zero, to meet the new CARB requirements.
- All flammable/combustible materials were eliminated—removal of Mineral Spirits was pivotal. (Bottom line benefit: Not stocking or shipping flammable chemicals or hazmats means lower shipping and storage costs because fewer fire protection safeguards are needed.)
- Employee exposure to hazardous organic chemicals was reduced to below the limits of detection. (Bottom line benefit: Regulatory program management—low detection levels mean less frequent mandatory testing, saving time and the repeated cost of consultant and lab fees.)
- Hazardous air emissions (HAPS) were reduced 15 percent.
- Through reformulation efforts, EPA Toxic Release Inventory Reporting (TRI) was reduced to a single chemical, with plans to eliminate all reporting requirements in 2013.
- Waste profiles were streamlined from more than 100 down to approximately 10, with only two categorized as hazardous.
- Site-wide sustainability efforts in waste minimization and recycling are ongoing, such as installation of low-energy lighting and recycling 60-80 metric tons of cardboard.
The buck stops here
To Noell, the freedom to operate without having to worry about hazardous output all the time is key. So what’s next? Right now, his plant recycles a third of the water used by its vacuum pumps. In the future, he would like to recycle all of it.