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This year, National Recycling Week (7 November) explores the idea that Waste isn’t Waste until it’s Wasted. From corporations to communities, it’s an important prompt to reflect and reconsider how we use resources – focussing on recycling better not more.

Reducing our waste by ensuring every resource you use is repurposed for a second life, not only keeps valuable materials out of landfill it also benefits the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing the need for newly produced resources.

Many of us may spend the week considering waste from the perspective of our household or local community, but what about the broader industries around you? We thought we’d take this opportunity to share some insight into how the recycling and resource management is incorporated into our foundry processes and how this intersects with something fellow West Australian’s will use on a daily basis…

The VEEM Ltd foundry in Canning Vale, Western Australia produces around 1500 tonnes of processed sand per month during the casting process. Producing such large quantities of waste became a growing issue within the industry, as companies struggled to find new landfill sites around Perth city and suburban regions.

Repurposing waste to help build the highways and byways of Perth

VEEM took the challenge as an opportunity to develop reclaim technologies that can recycle up to 70% of processed sand. To beneficially reuse the remaining 30% of processed sand, VEEM worked closely with the local road pavement companies to obtain environmental approval to repurpose waste sand to the road base products. This took a number of years to implement but VEEM are proud to now provide around 600 tons of sand to help build the highways and byways of Perth. A note for fellow manufacturers put off by the ‘costs’ of environmentally conscious operations – this process now sees us save around $250,000 in waste disposal costs every year!

Briquette processing for waste material

The VEEM Ltd foundry also continues to find innovative and new ways to boost efficiency. By using briquette processing for waste material, VEEM are able to crush the machining swarf into a high-density briquette that’s then suitable for re-use in the metal melting process. By further advancing our recycling efforts, we have been able to reduce environmental emissions and costs of manufacturing.

Machining swarf is the left-over cuts produced by the machining process, performed on castings that we make in our foundry. Even though castings are already close to shape, the machining process is carried out to bring the castings to within microns of the design in critical areas. Typically, this loose swarf is difficult to handle in the furnace, creates excess smoke pollution as the cooling fluids used in the machining process are burned off, and causes inefficiency in the metal melting process. By compressing the swarf into small briquettes (that look like 50c pieces stacked about 30mm high), the cutting fluid is squeezed out, meaning the furnace performs more efficiently, saving energy and substantially reducing hydrocarbon pollution from the smoke.

Rethinking waste

Educating ourselves on closing the recycling loop and purchasing products made with recycled content is key to creating a sustainable future. We are firm believers in the need to rethink our waste and see it as a resource that can be turned into new products rather than something to dispose of. By keeping these materials in circulation for as long as possible, we reduce the need to the extract new virgin materials, not to mention the water and energy consumed in processing the new materials and products.

The VEEM Ltd foundry is proudly accredited to ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems. Recycling our machining swarf is not a requirement for us, however it is a good way to meet our moral obligations to society, and being able to do so efficiently is even better in our eyes. We encourage everyone to take a moment this week and consider what resources or products can be repurposed for a second life… now, what’s stopping you?