Columbian Chemicals Company, located in Southwest Kansas, United States, manufactures carbon black, a fine powder used as a pigment and reinforcing agent in rubber, plastic and liquid products. Committed to the environment and to operational excellence, Columbian Chemicals achieved ISO 14001 environmental management system registration of its 11 carbon black manufacturing facilities in June 2005.
Implementing an environmental management system is an important part of Columbian’s commitment to operational excellence. Through the ISO registration process, Columbian went beyond compliance, achieving impressive emissions and waste reduction results including:
Achieving ISO 14001 registration shows that Columbian has implemented an environmental management system that meets the requirements of ISO 14001, including the implementation of operational controls, associated employee training and awareness, and auditing procedures. “Our environmental management system is successful because it requires significant employee awareness and involvement,” says Debra McDaniel, CSP Senior SHE Coordinator at Columbian Chemicals. “All employees receive extensive environmental awareness training every year.”
By developing an environmental management system, the Columbian facility has significantly enhanced employee environmental awareness and plant performance. “Recycling, reusing, reducing, educating, and recognizing has changed our work practices and driven innovative ideas and programs,” says McDaniel. “As we strive to become good environmental stewards, we are finding unique and creative ways to prevent pollution and raise awareness.”
According to McDaniel, “We chose QMI as our registrar because it seemed logical to use one registrar to meet the needs of both quality and environmental auditing. QMI has been instrumental in Columbian’s quest for environmental excellence by providing a rigorous and fair auditing process of our environmental management system (EMS).”
More Environmental Benefits At Columbian, 95 percent of all office paper, magazines, junk mail, aluminum cans and packaging materials are recycled each year. Columbian also measures achievements in source reduction and resource conservation resulting from their EMS. Recent results include reduced emissions due to premature bag failures. The maintenance department devised a tool for better filter bag alignment and developed bag handling procedures to prevent damage during installation. They also created a Preventative Maintenance program which increased monitoring by operators and increased priority on bag house work orders leading to an 81 percent decrease in failures, cost avoidance of $67,000 for bags, $98,000 down time avoidance and the saving of approximately 800 cubic feet of landfill space.
By implementing a unique ‘Leak-A-Week’ Program, allowing employees who identify a leak to request service for repairs, the maintenance team committed to repairing at least one leak per week and set a goal of repairing a minimum of 75 percent of all reported leaks. This program resulted in 86 percent of all leaks reported being repaired.
Boiler natural gas usage was reduced by installing a waste gas boiler in November 2005 and initiating a steam leak preventative maintenance program resulting in approximately 10,000 mcf saved and $123,000 cost savings for natural gas and chemicals. The amount of water used in the shower house was also reduced by installing low flow shower heads resulting in 2.7 million gallons of water saved annually.
Ultimately an EMS is an excellent starting point for preventing pollution. Any industry, business, municipality or institution can develop an EMS. The ISO 14001 system requires more stringent record keeping and documentation, but is an important catalyst for improving environmental performance. Columbian’s employee driven programs and projects clearly demonstrate this. Their program has led to more than 80 projects and $1.2 million in savings overall for the company. In 2005, 96 percent of all employees participated in environmental projects ranging from turning off lights in work areas to recycling aluminum cans and office paper to reporting leaks.
Several internal organizational changes also took place at Columbian as a result of their EMS. Notable changes included an expanded focus on contractor safety, monthly corporate meetings to discuss environmental activities at each facility worldwide and quarterly environmental coordinator conference calls to share best management practices and ideas for environmental excellence. Columbian also received Pollution Prevention Awards in 2006 and 2005 from The Kansas Department of Health & Environment for their environmental management system.
Says McDaniel, “The environmental management system has been a great success for all 50 of our employees and is a model program, not only for our company, but for other small businesses as well. This is an ongoing process that will lead to greater sustainability.”