It’s safe to say there are few negative associations with recycling any resource (OK… Maybe re-gifting).
But when it comes to industrial lubricants, recycling is good. And if recycling your industrial lubricants is a good thing, reclaiming your industrial lubricants is a great thing!
Recycling separates your spent industrial lubricants from other useful industrial fluids and contaminants. But from there, your spent lubricants either need to be repurposed for another use (like fuel oil), or re-refined into new base oils before they can be restored to serve a new purpose.
Reclaiming separates your industrial lubricants from other useful industrial fluids, as well as contaminants like dirt and water and prepares the lubricants for their originally intended use without any additives or treatment needed.
For the average reader, this may not sound like a big difference. But for an environmental engineer, a plant manager or a procurement manager, the difference is big. Like as much as 60% of your industrial lubricant usage kind of big. And for the plant manager and Q&A folks, it can mean much more because reclaiming is often a constant process that adds value before the time to re-order new lubricants (or not) rolls around. The reclaiming process can keep mists out of an operator’s air space as well as maintain your lubricant purity levels below the point of failure to help maintain consistent finish levels.
Don’t snub your nose at recycling though. Recycling is a good thing. Eventually, all process fluids reach an end-of-life state. And when they do, having the processes in place to recover and recycle your industrial lubricants can reduce risk, waste expenses and environmental footprint. If you don’t have the processes in place to recover and recycle these resources yourself, it’s beneficial to work with a wastewater processing partner who does.
We’ll talk about different methods for reclaiming and recycling your industrial lubricants in future. For now though, please take a moment to read below for a more detailed differentiation of reclamation and recycling in an industrial lubricant scenario.
Reclaiming… industrial lubricants is a nonchemical process that restores in-service industrial lubricants for immediate reuse for their original purpose. Reclaiming treats a charge of industrial lubricants and returns that charge to the machine’s pool of lubricant (either central system, individual sump or stored at a treatment facility). Reclamation can take place off-site where the vendor drains the existing charge and replaces it with previously reclaimed industrial lubricants, but is typically done on-site as part of a process that maintains consistent purity levels. Reclamation generally involves filter and centrifuge technologies working together to make the process as efficient and cost-effective as possible.
Recycling… occurs when a charge of industrial lubricant reaches the end of its life and has to be drained from the system. Typically, the spent lubricant is mixed with wastewater and can be treated by a CWT (centralized waste treatment facility) to be safely disposed. Recycling the lubricant starts with recovering it from the wastewater stream. After recovery, it can be re-refined to new base oil or treated and sold as fuel oil. The choice to re-refine or treat is based on its state of contamination – emulsified water and dirt – and how far the lubricants have broken-down. CWTs have different technologies and capabilities when recovering lubricants from waste streams, so some recover and recycle more than others.