Developing Sustainable Cleaning Processes

Q. Our company is looking to optimize processing and use safe, clean, reduced waste cleaning processes that are ultimately sustainable. What do you recommend to help get us there?

A. We applaud you for looking to employ sustainable, safe, clean, and reduced waste cleaning processes. The first step in evaluating the environmental health and safety of an aqueous cleaner is to secure the material safety data sheet and technical bulletins for the cleaners you plan to test or use, and to assemble as much information as you can about the soils you will be removing. A review of this information should disclose important environmental and health hazards as well as regulations.

When performing an initial review of regulations for an aqueous cleaner, it is important to consider Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) discharge permits, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) sewer connection/extension permits, and any Resource Conservation and Reclamation Act (RCRA) hazardous waste class or Clean Water Act regulations. State and local environmental regulations should also be considered.

It is wise to conduct a full scale environmental audit no matter what type of cleaning system you are using. Such an audit may result in changes in the way you currently manufacture and clean. In fact, after conducting a full-scale environmental audit many companies turn to aqueous cleaning to achieve regulatory compliance easily and safely. A program of regular re-auditing can assure continued regulatory compliance.

Compared to hazardous nonaqueous and semiaqueous cleaners—particularly, those containing ozone-depleting fluorocarbon solvents, carcinogenic organic solvents, and/or flammable components—aqueous cleaners are good choices for safe, environmentally sound cleaning.

By choosing high quality, environmentally sound aqueous cleaners, most cleaning problems can be solved without endangering workers or the environment.

 

 



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