Interest in waste-disposal technologies at all time high

As upcoming trade shows such as Envitec focus on global responsibility, interest in environmental protection and waste-disposal technologies is at an all time high in the US and abroad.

According to Environmental Business International Inc., a market research firm based in San Diego, CA, annual environmental industry revenues in the US have reached nearly $140 billion at the end of 1994. The service sector, which includes laboratory analysis, waste management, and consulting and remediation, will make up $64.7 billion, or 47%. The resource center, which includes water treatment, resource recovery and energy systems, will make up $42.7 billion, or 31%; and the equipment and technology sector will comprise about $31 billion, or 22%. Overall, EBI expects the environmental industry in the US to grow at about 4% a year through 1999.

The overall air-pollution-control market in the US will grow by about 13.4% per year until 1997, according to The Freedonia Group Inc., Cleveland, OH. Most of the projected growth is attributed to the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, which mandate significant reductions of particulate emissions, volatile-organic compounds, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

In 1992, total spending in the air pollution control market in the US was $5.5 billion, according to Freedonia. About $1.1 billion represented direct spending for equipment. By 1997, spending for equipment is expected to reach $2.17 billion. Particulate control equipment will have the highest demand at about $1.1 billion, followed by gaseous control equipment at nearly half a billion dollars and pollution monitoring at more than a quarter billion dollars.

Bob McIlvaine, The McIlvaine Co., said there are two main areas within the US air-pollution-control market where European technology holds an edge. The largest opportunity lies in the sale of air-pollution-control systems for municipal solid-waste burners.

"The Europeans are ahead of the game in that area, and there is a near-term need for about 100 of those systems," McIlvaine said. "That translates to a market of about $200 million."

The other area where European technology holds a decided edge is in continuous measurement of particulates. In Europe, McIlvaine said, particulate emissions are quantified in terms of mass, not overall opacity. While US regulations currently require opacity measurements only, they will soon require the measurement of mass.

"This gives them an edge because very few US companies are developing mass-analysis equipment at this time," he said.

The water and wastewater treatment sector is expected to grow at rate greater than 10% a year through 1997, according to Frost & Sullivan, a Mountain View, CA, research firm. This growth will be fueled in large part by heightened performance standards, computerization and new technology developments. Equipment sales in the water-treatment market were approximately $705 million in 1991; that is expected to grow to just under $1 billion by 1997. Equipment sales in the wastewater-treatment market were $843 million in 1991, and they are expected to grow to $1.5 billion by 1997.

McIlvaine said he believes the Europeans have a clear market advantage in the wastewater sector, especially when it comes to sewage-sludge-dewatering technologies.

"The Germans have developed a centrifuge system that dewaters sludge better than other technologies," he said. "That means the sludge has a higher value because it can be burned at much lower temperatures."

McIlvaine estimates that the potential near-term market for sewage-sludge dewatering technology is about $50 million a year.

According to EBI, the recycling industry in the US should grow at about 6%/yr. between 1994 and 1998. This is a change from years past when market instability and plummeting commodities prices left the resource-recovery market flat.

European firms have extensive experience developing recycling technologies. "Since Europe is a resource-scarce area, the European countries have been forced to look at recycling and resource recovery as a way of life," Terry Faecke, director of the Waste Reduction Institute for Training and Applications Research, Minneapolis, MN, said.

In 1993, the resource-recovery sector had $15.2 billion in revenues, with materials recovery contributing $13.2 billion and energy recovery contributing $2 billion. The highest growth areas within the recycling sector included steel and paper, with plastics and glass showing more moderate gains.

Another area where European technologies have the advantage is in the design and operation of waste-to-energy technologies.

"Most European countries ran out of landfill space years ago," Doug Augenthaller, a research analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., said. "They've had to learn how to design and run these units as efficiently as possible. As US municipalities begin looking at waste-to-energy plants to supplant landfills, they'll undoubtedly be looking at European companies."

* Green Awards - A Cincinnati-based plastics company and its president/CEO were among five winners of the Eighth Annual Governor's Award for Outstanding Achievement in Pollution Prevention.

Amko Plastics Inc. and George Makrauer, president/CEO, received the award, which is given each year to organizations that have made significant contributions to reducing and preventing pollution in the state.

However, it's unusual for the company's management to be recognized, according to Ohio EPA spokesperson James Leach, whose office coordinates the awards.

"Amko was selected for its decade-long commitment to introducing new materials and technologies to enhance environmental protection, as well as its willingness to share its expertise with both public and private interests," he said.

"George Makrauer is being honored individually because it is his vision that helped turn these ideas into realities."

Makrauer said his company hopes to send the message that businesses can afford to exercise environmental stewardship because it's becoming an integral part of long-term business success.

Amko has developed several processes to minimize the environmental impact of its products and manufacturing operations.

In fact, the Ohio EPA recently classified the company as a conditionally exempt small-quantity generator. This means the firm generates less than 220 lb./mo. in total hazardous wastes from its 224,000 sq. ft. plant, which operates seven days/week., 24 hr./day.

* EPA Waste Report - EPA recently issued a report on municipal solid waste that measures the amount of trash generated, where trash comes from and where it goes.

According to the report, of the 207 million tons of trash generated in the US in 1993, which is the most recent full-year data available, 22% was recycled or composted.

In 1990, 17% was recycled or composted. While 83% of our trash went to landfills in 1985, 62% ended up there in 1993.

Stringent national regulations for landfills and municipal solid-waste combustion units are in place. Additionally, manufacturers have continued to reduce the weight of containers and packaging.

The source reduction includes a 23% reduction in the weight of a two-liter PET soft drink bottle and a 21% reduction in the weight of a 12-ounce aluminum cans since 1980.

Americans are now recycling more than 45 million tons of various materials, including paper, cardboard, aluminum, steel, glass and plastic. According to the report, this trend is significant since recycling is still relatively new.

The report also found that though municipal solid-waste generation is still increasing, it is growing at a much slower rate.

* Recycling Guidelines - A 12-page report advises prospective recyclers to remember that success starts on the drawing board.

Recycling Plastics - Guidelines for Designers looks at the background to recycling plastics and sets a series of criteria leading to a philosophy of design for recycling. The report includes a checklist of the criteria that designers should now be incorporating from the beginning of each project.

Issues such as materials reduction and simplification are covered, and a reference section of background information includes chapters on legislation, methods of recycling and current recycling projects through Europe, the US and Japan.

In preparing the report, author John Murphy considered many angles in order to provide guidelines for applications ranging from packaging to technical components with case histories that examine current trends in recycling plastics for these industries.

"Recycling issues add up to the biggest challenge which designers have ever faced," Murphy said. "They now have to select materials and use them harmoniously from the start and extract from them the maximum possible value and then dispose of them in a way which achieves further value."

The report is published by Techline Data Services and is available from Applied Market Information Ltd.

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