Evonik: Waste Minimization Program

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The Evonik Mobile facility has an ongoing program to reduce waste from their operations. Through these efforts the facility has eliminated two waste streams formerly managed as disposal or limited recycling: wood pallet and AMEO salt disposal. These efforts have prevented 500 tons of material from entering landfills annually and offset CO2 emissions by 53 tons per year.

“We do our best to minimize the volume of waste and reclaim or recycle what we do produce,” said Cecil Bolton, waste specialist at Evonik. 

Evonik uses a hierarchical system to address waste management, with minimization their first goal. Where production of waste cannot be avoided, the company seeks a beneficial reuse to repurpose excess material. When disposal is necessary, recycling and energy recovery provide the best alternatives.

Evonik works with local sod farmers to reuse wooden pallets, but damaged and excess pallets have traditionally been disposed of in a local landfill. “I looked for many years to find someone to take damaged pallets,” said Bolton. “One of our transporters told me about this operation in Saraland and that was exactly what I was looking for.” 

The company is Hicks Pallets, which repairs and reassembles damaged pallets for resale. Pallets beyond repair, as well as other waste wood from shipping crates, are ground into 1-inch chips that are used for energy production in the form of steam or electrical power. Hicks Pallets employs previously unskilled employees as well as parolees, providing needed employment while teaching manual skills. With this new partnership, Evonik has been able to recycle 100% of their pallets and wood waste. 

The second product removed from the waste streams is a by-product salt. AMEO salts are 26% nitrogen by weight and contains chloride, both important plant nutrients. 

“Wheat and corn require trace amounts of chloride,” Bolton explained. Working with a facility in Missouri, the company was able to find a new use for the salts as a component of fertilizer in the vast mid-west farmland, repurposing an estimated 250 tons of material annually.

“It is important for businesses to realize that sustainability also supports the bottom line,” adds Charles Moran, an environmental and chemical engineer at Evonik. In the case of AMEO salts, the vendor pays for transport of the material to Missouri, saving Evonik the expense of disposal. 

“There is an incentive to invest in sustainability,” says Moran. These projects save money while providing the local economy with jobs and most importantly, protecting the environment.