In the 1990s, UNIDO and the United Nations Environment Programme established the first National Cleaner Production Centre (NCPC). Over the next two decades, these evolved into a global network of more than 70 members, promoting Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production practices in many industrial sectors in developing and transition economies. The NCPC in Serbia, established in 2007, is a particularly strong player in implementing sustainable chemicals solutions in the country, including the promotion of new business models such as Chemical Leasing by providing technical assistance to industry stakeholders. Mile Mijuskovic, deputy general manager at FKL a.d. Temerin, explains how his company benefited from UNIDO’s assistance.
– We are a manufacturer of metal parts for agricultural machines, business vehicles, mining equipment, transportation equipment and other products on the global market. Specifically, we specialize in bearings and cardan shafts. Bearings constrain motion and reduce friction. Cardan shafts - which themselves contain bearings - connect components of the drive train, delivering power to wheels.
We pride ourselves in our modern plant, which allows us to produce products that are tailor-made for our customers. But, several years ago, we were not satisfied in one particular area: we were using large amounts of perchloroethylene (PERC), a chlorinated solvent, to clean metal parts. That generated hazardous waste, and the solvent was emitted into the environment and the working environment. We wanted to fix this, but we didn’t know how.
In 2009, the Serbian National Cleaner Production Centre told us about a new business model called Chemical Leasing. Instead of selling a substance to the customer, the chemical company sells a service—providing as much of the substance as is needed, as well as recycling or disposing of it when the job is done.
We saw that this model had the potential to be a cleaner, safer and possibly even cheaper solution for us when it came to cleaning our parts. So in 2010 we agreed to start the preparatory phase of a Chemical Leasing project with the partners SAFECHEM Europe (a subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company), Ravago Chemicals (a local supplier of chemicals) and Pero AG (a technical equipment provider from Germany). In 2012 we signed the Chemical Leasing contract for five years, and operations began in 2013.
The project dramatically changed the way we use solvent in our factory. In consultation with SAFECHEM Europe, we altered the composition of the solvent we used to one that would be less corrosive. We installed a distillation unit for recovering wasted solvent on site. And we changed how we stored and transferred the solvent so that it would not escape.
We saw benefits almost immediately. Due to these measures, which increased the lifetime of the solvent, we reduced our consumption from 30 tons to 5 tons per year. Additionally, we reduced the amount of hazardous waste we generated from 25 tons to 1.5 tons per year. Remarkably, we no longer emit any solvent at all into the environment or into the working environment.
These changes save us about €100,000 per year, most of it in hazardous waste disposal costs. On top of that we see increased productivity and lowered maintenance costs. And our cleaning costs are now more predictable than they were before. Instead of paying SAFECHEM Europe for solvent, we pay a monthly fee for the number of operating hours.
In 2014, the Global Chemical Leasing Award recognized our project with a certificate. We have achieved significant economic, environmental and occupational health and safety benefits. Perhaps best of all, however, is that our parts are cleaned consistently and well - indeed, better than they were before.