AWARE Solutions Volume 7, Number 17 Fall 1999
Washing Gets "Smart"
At many Reynolds facilities, cleaning and degreasing
industrial parts and equipment is done in a parts washer
sink using a mineral spirits solvent. With use, the
solvent becomes contaminated and unable to clean
effectively. When this occurs, the solvent is removed and
replaced. The used fluid is typically transported and
managed as a hazardous waste due to the low flash point of
the solvent. While higher flash point solvents have been
developed and used to potentially avoid the hazardous
waste issues, they still require occasional fluid
change-out and subsequent management.
Because of the hazardous waste and fluid management issues
associated with these traditional parts washing sinks,
several Reynolds facilities have challenged themselves to
In 1997, the facilities manager at the Reynolds
plastics plant in Grottoes, Virginia, Bill Youell,
evaluated a parts washing alternative called the
Smartwasher®. This system uses a biodegradable cleaning
fluid along with a replaceable filter impregnated with
bacteria designed to consume hydrocarbons. During normal
use, the fluid is slightly heated for cleaning efficiency
and optimum bacterial activity. In addition, brushing
action is required during cleaning as the fluid behaves
more like a surfactant and less like a solvent. As the
cleaning process removes oil and grease, the bacteria in
the filter consume them. At normal intervals dependent on
usage, the filter media is removed and a new one
installed. The fluid, however, stays in the unit and is
continually cleaned by the bioremediation. Periodically,
make-up fluid is added to maintain normal operating
Based on discussions with users of the Smartwasher® system
(including military bases and other industrial sites),
buy-in from the plant maintenance staff, and an assessment
of the system's return on investment (ROI), Grottoes
purchased two of the Smartwasher® systems in June of 1997.
The vendor provided training on proper use and maintenance
of the units.
Similarly, in early 1999, Don Ashworth, the EHS manager at
the Corporate R&D facility in Enon, Virginia began
investigating alternatives to their traditional parts
washers. Don realized that parts washer solvent was
routinely the facility's only hazardous waste stream and
that alternatives that performed cost-effectively could
reduce the facility's regulatory burden. As part of his
investigation, Don also reviewed the Smartwasher® system
and it appeared to be a good fit with the facility
operations. After presenting the information to the
facility staff and management and obtaining their buy-in,
Enon purchased 2 Smartwasher® units.
The Smartwasher® system has been in place at Grottoes for
over 2 years and while the overall experience has been
positive, there have been some problems along the way.
Youell recalls that they have had 2 problems with the
systems. After installation, it became apparent that
Grottoes had one particular type of grease on some of its
equipment that was poorly removed by the Smartwasher®. For
this, the vendor supplied a different fluid mixture that
enabled all the parts to be cleaned effectively.
February of 1998, one of the units lost its cleaning
effectiveness and the vendor was called in for assistance.
It appeared that chloride contamination in the cleaning
fluid was causing the microbes in the system to die off.
As a result, the fluid had to be changed out and replaced
with a cleaning fluid with another formulation. Since
then, Bill and the maintenance personnel have monitored
the chloride level and have not seen any similar
filters are changed out monthly and have also been tested
and shown to be non-hazardous for disposal.
Additionally, because the fluid is not a petroleum
solvent, safety concerns related to the fluid flammability
have been reduced.
Ashworth at Enon notes that the systems are still fairly
new at his facility and that the experience has proven
positive so far and no problems have been encountered.
Making the switch to the Smartwasher® system also enabled
both the Enon and Grottoes facilities to discontinue use
of their current parts washer vendor and remove a vendor
and associated vendor audit performance from their area of
information about the performance of the Smartwasher®
systems, please contact Bill Youell at the Grottoes
plastics plant (540) 249-2022 or Don Ashworth at the Enon
R&D facility (804) 751-2196. Additional information about
the Smartwasher® can also be found on the internet at http://www.chemfree.com/. If you have experience with
other alternative parts washing systems you would like to
share, please contact Curt Wells at (804) 281-2343.
Reynolds Metals Company
Corporate Environmental Quality
6603 West Broad Street,G-6-7
Richmond, VA 23230
Curt Wells (804)281-2343
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