The circular economy has two issues to solve: on the one hand, an offer of recycled products that is growing faster than demand and, on the other hand, the lack of a valid outlet for the management of waste produced by manufacturing industries in all sectors.
These problems, which are often invisible yet concrete, are drawn to our attention by business associations in industries all over the world.
The latest report by the World Bank pointed out that “global waste generation is expected to double by 2025, whereas (the annual cost of solid) waste management is projected to rise from the current $205 billion to $375 billion.” Only in Europe, 14 tonnes of raw materials per head are used compared to 5 tonnes considered to be the permitted limit.
As already mentioned, it would be useful to organise production waste within the circular (recycling) economy, developing production systems linked up in industrial symbiosis, whereby manufacturers would be required to dispose of waste on site, using the best existing technologies.
Unfortunately, handling waste generated by production activities, including waste from the same recycling processes, is becoming more and more challenging. Many people talk about the slogan “zero waste”, without having a detailed knowledge of the industries involved.
Therefore, it is of fundamental importance for the issue of waste to be tackled upstream and that manufacturers in the various industrial sectors invest in resources and innovative machinery, which can eliminate or significantly reduce the volume of waste and scrap produced during processing.
A concrete example of a company working in this direction is Turbotecnica Engineering, who have been designing and manufacturing shot blast machines and sand blasting chambers for the automotive, aerospace and steel industries, among others.
The shot blasting, sand blasting, shot peening and deburring processes used to clean, smooth and strengthen metallic materials, marble and granite are mechanical processes, which, like all surface finishing processes, generate waste that varies in quantity mainly depending on the raw material processed, the applications adopted, special treatments and the type of abrasive used. Like all other waste from all industrial sectors, this also needs to be disposed of within the economics of production.
The shot blasting machine systems produced by Turbotecnica Engineering are equipped with innovative systems to eliminate waste and all impurities arising from the mixture of abrasive materials and extracted air.
The technologies used by Turbotecnica for this purpose include:
1) a vibrating screen, which, by selecting the flow of abrasive material, retains coating scraps and other surface residues, discharging them into a special collector;
2) a grit separator, which removes dust generated by processing;
3) dust abatement and containment filters, using self-cleaning cartridges.
In this way, all waste and residues generated by processing are automatically collected by the system. They can be disposed of directly as metal scraps or inert materials except, of course, any waste resulting from the removal of coatings, which requires further specific treatments. In any case, these innovative technologies allow filtered air to be released into the atmosphere and the work environment, since the dust content is significantly lower than the parameters established by current regulations concerning environmental health and safety.
There is no certainty about what the future holds; much depends on national governments and financial incentives to transform the most promising industrial activities into circular economic models. In the meantime, the efforts made by Turbotecnica are a concrete example of research and development, which all companies involved in the industrial processing of metals need to regard as a model and a point of reference.