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Environmentally Friendly Metal Plating in 2014 and Beyond

BY CURTIS CARR. Being friendly to the environment continues to be a primary focus of companies throughout the metal plating industry. Whether attempting to comply with constantly changing government regulations, ensuring the health and safety of coworkers, or simply trying to be good corporate citizens, metal plating companies are ramping up their efforts to become “green” metal plating companies in 2014. Specifically, this entails a constant effort to develop and implement more eco-friendly processes and procedures. 

To achieve those objectives, it’s important for the industry as a whole to focus on a number of key areas that will enhance the environment. Among them:
Process Improvement. Constantly striving to improve metal plating processes can go a long way towards protecting the environment. There are a few ways metal plating companies can explore a wide range of process improvement methods, including:
  • Monitoring bath composition
  • Equipment modifications and upgrades
  • Using environmentally friendly chemical substitutes (where possible)
  • Improving general housekeeping procedures
Waste Reduction. It’s also important to continue finding ways to reduce the amount of waste produced in metal plating operations. One way any metal plating company can limit the amount of waste it generates is to focus on removing any impurities from its plating baths. Establishing a comprehensive waste management program is essential. The most effective waste management programs consist of three phases:
  • Pre-audit – Consists of a clearly defined waste management policy supported by top management.
  • Audit – Includes extensive data collection, accurate cost accounting and strong program leadership.
  • Feasibility analysis – Involves a continuous re-appraisal of waste management processes, as well as an ongoing assessment of emerging technologies that could improve performance.
Recycling Wastewater. Strides continue to be made in the metal plating industry in the recycling of wastewater generated during the plating process. One innovative discharge technology for recycling metal ion-laced wastewater is a closed-looped system that can treat wastewater from multiple sources, while also recovering all metal ions and other impurities. Another option is a dual-loop system that recycles both wastewater and plating salts. Note: The technologies DO NOT result in discharge of wastewater into the environment.
Metal Plating Safety. Metal plating companies should continue exercising extreme caution when implementing metal plating processes that could pose health or safety hazards. For instance, when metal plating conductivity is desired, copper metal plating is a popular and cost-effective choice. However, it is sometimes necessary to use a cyanide-based solution during the copper metal plating process to achieve a brighter finish. Industry leaders should determine if it’s necessary to perform copper metal plating with cyanide and adhere to the industry “best practices” regarding the use of this highly toxic material. However, companies can also consider the use of cyanide substitutes whenever it is feasible to do so.
Keeping an Eye on the Future. For metal plating industry leaders, it’s more important than ever to strive for innovation, find ways to protect the environment and preserve our dwindling resources. All this while continuing a push towards the development of environmentally friendly metal plating processes that will help your clients enhance their competitive position in the marketplace and make a positive impact on our environment.
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Posted 13/12/2013 by Reg Tucker

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