ENVIRONMENTALIST OF THE YEAR

Winner: Bombardier Aerospace-Shorts/Clinty Chemicals

Highly commended: Jaguar Cars

Runners-up: Hawtal Whiting Environmental; ABB Automation

Bombardier Aerospace-Shorts and Clinty Chemicals were praised by the judges for their creative approach in implementing `one of the key concepts of sustainability, by finding a partner for a waste exchange agreement and an economical use for an otherwise waste product’.

Bombardier Aerospace-Shorts uses a chemical milling process to etch aluminium alloy material to reduce weight, or form integral stiffeners, in components for customers such as Boeing. This process produced more than 650 tonnes of caustic solution waste in 1997.

When told that the landfill site it used to dispose of hazardous waste was due to close, Shorts rejected the possibility of finding an alternative disposal site as too hazardous and expensive. With the help of Questor, the environmental research branch of Queen’s University, Belfast, it hit upon a patented US regeneration process, in which contaminants are removed from caustic solutions, allowing them to be re-used. The catch was that this process was capital-intensive, requiring the building of a waste processing plant.

Questor put Shorts in touch with small, local firm Clinty Chemicals, which could use a by-product from the treated waste as a feedstock for its own process – the manufacture of ferric aluminium sulphate for water treatment. Clinty agreed to build and operate the waste treatment plant if Shorts would pay a monthly fee for the service.

The plant, which opened in June, will reduce an annual 900 tonnes of hazardous waste to 25 tonnes of non-hazardous waste. The need to handle potentially hazardous chemicals will be reduced; feedstock chemicals for the process will be cut 60%; and the efficiency of the caustic milling process will be improved, with associated cost savings.

The judges said: `In the light of the increase in the landfill tax, this is an excellent strategy and sends positive messages about what can be achieved by firms working together.’

Highly commended was Jaguar Cars for improved water-management practices at its Browns Lane assembly plant. In checking door seals for leaks, the plant previously used 20 litres/min, discharging direct into the sewerage system, with no provision to intercept possible contamination. A new system was installed which provides more rigorous testing, while recycling the water 110 times. It saves 120 million litres of water every year, and the £1.6m cost of the plant will be paid back within 30 months. The judges said: `The system enhances the process it was designed to ameliorate, with economic and environmental benefits occurring together.’

Runners-up

Also shortlisted was EVEC, a device developed by Hawtal Whiting Environmental which significantly reduces car emissions of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons. ABB Automation was in the running for its high-efficiency AC electric motors, whose losses are 25-50% lower than average.