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Evanite Fiber Corporation
Evanite Fiber Corporation has three manufacturing facilities at its Corvallis, Oregon campus. The Hardhoard Plant manufactures wood interior panels (hardboard) for use in furniture and building construction. The Glass Fiber Plant manufactures a very fine glass fiber (<0.01 micron, or about 1/100 the thickness of a human hair) for use in battery separators and ultra-pure air and liquid filters. The Submicro Plant manufactures submicroporous "gray sheet" sold to automotive battery manufacturers for use as battery separator material. Around 330 employees work for Evanite in Corvallis.
Evanite's Corvallis plants are permitted under a number of different environmental laws. But Evanite's commitment to the environment goes beyond meeting permit requirements. "We're always looking for ways to do a better job of caring for the environment," says Tom Grigsby, Vice President for Research and Technology.
In this case study, Evanite has agreed to share three specific examples of how it uses resources more efficiently, with the hope that other businesses can learn from Evanite's experience. All of these examples were voluntarily implemented by Evanite. The greatest improvement in resource efficiency came in an area of raw material utilization that Evanite considers proprietary and prefers not to include in this report. While the specifics are not included here, Evanite states that the Corvallis Model City Resource Efficiency Project and its process helped Evanite to isolate and address a waste issue with major energy and environmental implications.
By using less energy and fewer materials in its operations, Evanite helps to reduce the environmental impacts of generating electricity (such as burning coal and generation), harvesting trees, and disposing of waste. These actions have environmental benefits throughout Oregon and beyond. In addition, Evanite enjoys significant financial savings from using resources more efficiently. And these efforts also pay off in higher employee morale.
Recycling of Wood Waste
Evanite's Hardboard Plant manufactures a variety of engineered wood products for use in furniture and building construction. Historically, Evanite manufactured particleboard (hardboard) using wood chips from mills. But in 1990, when a shortage of wood chips loomed on the horizon, Evanite began to experiment with waste wood harvested from the "urban forest". Today, more than 75% of Evanite hardboard is waste wood from demolition projects end broken pellets.
To ensure a continuing supply of waste wood, Evanite helped to start Wood Exchange, a wood-recycling company that collects scrap wood from throughout the Portland area and beyond. While some pallets are repaired and resold for reuse, badly damaged pallets, along with wood from construction and demolition projects, are cleaned of metal, plastic, garbage, and other materials, and trucked to Corvallis, where the wood is converted into chips for use by Evanite. Thus, the waste from many different businesses has become an important feedstock in Evanite's manufacturing process.
Evanite uses about 40,000 tons of waste wood annually, all of which used to be disposed of in landfills or burned. According to the National Association of Home Builders, 40,000 tons of wood is about what would be found in 2,000 1,500-square-foot houses. Thanks to Evanite's willingness to experiment with this new feedstock, all of this material is used again in new construction. In fact, Evanite uses more recycled wood at its Corvallis plant (40,000 tons/year) than all of the materials recycled by all Corvallis and Benton County residents and businesses (24,000 tons in 1994).
Trim and other scrap from the manufacturing process are reused again to make new product, and scraps of ferrous metal that come in with the waste wood are separated with a magnet and set aside for recycling.
Energy Conservation in Air Compressors
In 1995, Evanite was struggling with an air compressor system that was not performing well enough. Faced with a $27,000 bill to buy a new compressor system, Evanite asked Pacific Power, the electric utility for Corvallis, for advice.
Pacific Power found that Evanite's air compressor equipment was more than adequate to do the job, but could be made more efficient by reconfiguration. Air leaks were also making the compressor less efficient, thus wasting electricity.
By reconfiguring the compressor system, and repairing leaks, Evanite saves $36,000 a year in electricity bills. That equates to roughly 900,000 kWh of electricity per year, or enough to power about 57 homes for an entire year. Because 80% of Pacific Power's electricity comes from coal, a reduction in electrical use translates into cleaner air.
Participation in Waste Exchanges
One company's waste is often another company's raw material. This is well illustrated by Evanite's success at using IMEX, the Industrial Materials Exchange managed by the Seattle King County (Washington) Health Department.
IMEX publishes a bi-monthly catalog listing "available" and "wanted" materials in a variety of categories, including acids, alkalis, solvents, oils, plastics, textiles, metals, and laboratory chemicals. Listings and distribution of the catalog are provided free of charge.
When Evanite closed one of its Corvallis plants, a purchasing agent chose to list 34 items needing removal as "available" materials in the July-August 1995 issue of IMEX. Within two months, Evanite had found users ranging from Portland to New Jersey for 12 of-these listings, including various types of plastics and organic chemicals.
For more information about IMEX, call 206-296-4899. For information about the National Materials Exchange Network, a nationwide network of exchange programs, call 509-466-1532.
Special thanks to Tom Grigsby, Vice President, and Jay Doyle, Environmental Manager, of Evanite Fiber Corporation for sharing these examples of resource efficiency, and to the Corvallis Area Chamber of Commerce, City of Corvallis, Pacific Power, and Corvallis Disposal for their participation in the Corvallis model City Resource Efficiency Project.
This case study was developed by Harding Lawson Associates (HLA) under contract to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). DEQ and the Oregon Department of Energy contributed to the development of this case study. This case study has been approved by Evanite Fiber Corporation.
For more information about DEQ's Land Quality programs, visit the DEQ contact page.