The Environmentally Conscious Cleanroom: Consumable Selection and Use

This article was sourced from an original publication by Berkshire.

How can the critical cleanroom environment meet standards for natural resource conservation and waste elimination?
With increasing consumer expectations, public scrutiny and government regulations the issue of environmental responsibility plays a bigger role in production and manufacturing than ever before. In response, many companies have introduced “green” initiatives to reduce their environmental impact, including programs to conserve natural resources and eliminate waste while producing environmentally sound products. This article focuses on issues surrounding cleanroom wipers and bond, introducing the concepts of repurposing, recycling and biodegradability for reduced environmental impact.

The hierarchy of waste management
Waste management is based on three main principles: reduce, reuse and recycle.

Reduce: Minimize waste and impact on the environment through use of more environmentally friendly products and lessened consumption. For instance, use lightweight, high absorbency wipers or more compact packing materials.

Reuse: Repeatedly use items whenever possible prior to recycling or disposal. While this is rarely viable for cleanroom wipers due to process requirements, it is possible for less critical environments.

Recycle: Arguably the most vital component of waste management, this includes collection of materials to reproduce the same product, or to be repurposed as another. Examples include recycling of corrugated and plastic packaging.

Implementation of these principles will reduce waste and energy usage, conserve natural resources, and minimize both air and water pollution. Once the concepts have been applied, remaining waste must be disposed of or incinerated. Landfall effects can be reduced with use of biodegradable materials.

Recyclability and biodegradability of common cleanroom materials
Recyclability and biodegradability of cleanroom wiping materials, packaging and bond paper can vary widely.

Synthetic fibers and yarns: Most commonly polyester, nylon or polypropylene, petroleum-based synthetics are non-biodegradable and non-renewable.

Cellulosic fibers: Sourced primarily from wood, biodegradable and sustainable cellulosic fibers are commonly constructed of cellulose pulp, abaca and soft wood.

Cotton fibers or yarns: 100% natural and biodegradable, cotton fibers are both renewable and sustainable.

Regenerated cellulose: Regenerated through a unique chemical process, these biodegradable cellulosic fibers are commonly found in the form of lyocell and rayon.

Corrugated cartons: While fully biodegradable, due to a market overabundance these cartons should be recycled.

Plastic bags or pouches: Typically used to house cleanroom wipers, these plastic bags and pouches are not usually biodegradable and should be recycled. 

Plastic canisters: While the plastic canisters used with cleanroom wipers are not generally biodegradable, they can easily be reused and typically recycled.

Cleanroom bond paper: Constructed of biodegradable cellulosic fibers, most cleanroom bond paper is also treated with synthetic latex, which affects biodegradability and recyclability. 

 

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