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Posted on 18 May, 2019

Support the environment

New technological developments in the manufacturing of aluminium composite panels allow the vast reduction of carbon footprints in various industries. Dimitrios Alexandropoulos, plant manager at Elval Colour, outlines how the company strives to increase the sustainability of its processes and products.

 

What is your role at Elval Colour?

Dimitrios Alexandropoulos: As plant manager, I am mainly responsible for health and safety, environmental matters, new investments, maintenance and production. By monitoring and improving each process, special focus is given to reducing its environmental impact at all times.

 

Can you give us an overview of Elval Colour’s products and production processes?

We produce coated aluminium sheets and coils for a multitude of construction applications, as well as aluminium composite panels (ACPs). An ACP is a sandwich of two aluminium sheets with a core made from either organic or inorganic materials. In continuous lines, Elval Colour produces its full range of core materials, which can be either polyethylene (PE), fire-retardant or incombustible compounds. The collective trade name of our ACP product is etalbond®. It is used in a variety of ways, including the exterior cladding of buildings (etalbond®PE, etalbond®FR, etalbond®A2), to corporate identity applications and advertising signs.

 

What are the historical environmental problems in the coated-aluminium industry?

The aluminium industry, like any manufacturing sector, has faced several environmental challenges since environmental management has become a primary public concern. One of these challenges is fresh and wastewater management, as water is the primary cooling medium in various aluminium-manufacturing processes, such as metal preparation and oven-paint curing in coating lines. Recycling and liquid waste treatment processes have dramatically evolved over the past 20 years and modern aluminium coating plants, like the one in our facility, operate with an environmentally friendly philosophy, where water is 100% recycled and any solid waste is purified before its disposal. We are proud to claim that Elval Colour, in particular, introduced the first ‘zero-liquid emissions plant’ for its coating lines ten years ago.

Similarly, another challenge is energy consumption and organic gas emissions targets, which are continuously reduced by regulators. The energy needed for curing ovens is significant, while the emissions generated from evaporating solvents contained in the coating are eliminated by safely burning them and reusing the thermal energy for heating the fresh air coming into the curing oven. This makes liquid-coating lines the most energy-efficient coating method available today, as they use thermal oxidisers to burn the solvents and recapture the heat generated.

Another environmental issue related to manufacturing liquid-coated aluminium is the passivation process of the metal before coating. This is necessary to protect the metal from oxidation. In this process, hexavalent chromium compounds (CrVI) were traditionally used. Because CrVI is carcinogenic in large concentrations, CrVI-free technologies are being developed, and the industry is already using CrVI alternatives for metal passivation. Ultimately, the use of CrVI is expected to be banned by EU regulators. However, the exact timing of this decision is not certain.

 

How does the etalbond®  A2 protect the environment?

Our composite panel, etalbond® A2, has a specially developed core that fulfils the requirements of EN 13501-1, in order to be categorised as an A2 class. This means that the material contains a very high percentage of inorganic fillers in comparison with its organic content, allowing it to reach the requirements of having very low calorific values per weight. The fact that the material uses a very small amount of polymer (less than 5%) makes it easy to recycle and ecofriendly. In addition, the fillers used derive from nature (natural minerals), which do not require any further processing and, therefore, have a lower carbon footprint.

 

What is the Arypon protective coating?

Arypon is a clear coat applied to the top of the colour/aesthetic layer of coated aluminum. This specially developed coating – based on nanotechnology – helps the coated surface to be easily cleaned using rainwater or condensation. The surface is hydrophilic, so water wets the entire coated surface and removes accumulated dirt from a building. This functionality keeps it clean and, as a result, less water is required for cleaning the building, lowering maintenance costs.

 

How does the wastewater treatment facility in the composite panels production plant operate, and why is it important?

The wastewater treatment facility, which is located at the composite panel production plant, easily treats water used in cleaning production equipment. First of all, it coagulates the dispersed solids or organic particles that exist as emulsions to then separate them from the liquid. For this reason, a filter press is used. The clean water that is produced is reused in the production process, minimising the natural resources used.

 

How is the company reducing electricity consumption?

Firstly, we use natural gas instead of electricity wherever possible. As an example, all of our newest production ovens – built in 2016 – have been designed with burners that use natural gas as a fuel. Furthermore, we conducted a thorough analysis of our electrical loads. After that, we installed special electrical cabinets with combined capacitor/filter banks to improve the overall power output of our plant, in order to reduce the harmonic levels caused by nonlinear loads. It is also worth mentioning that, after this investment, our power efficiency increased and reduced the power consumption of the plant by 10%. Other initiatives include the replacement of traditional light bulbs with LED and the elimination of compressed-air leaks in the pneumatic circuits. The core of etalbond®  ACPs are polyethylene, fire-retardant or incombustible compounds.

 

How has Elval Colour achieved its wide array of respected environmental accreditations?

All of our products carry environmental product declarations (EPDs) and life-cycle assessments (LCAs) from accredited and widely recognised institutions. The company has received a plethora of environmental management awards and has a certified environmental management system, according to ISO 14001:2015. It is also in our immediate plans to adopt the energy consumption standard, ISO 50001, to monitor our energy consumption reduction targets in a transparent and organised manner.

As we are a vertically integrated producer with access to our own casting and rolling facility, we have a closed-loop recycling system of production scrap and are able to provide our customers with accurate recycled content data for the aluminium used in our products. This allows our clients to place themselves and building investments forward for a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. Furthermore, Elval Colour’s products have recently acquired the Singapore Green Label, and they are recommended by BVD in Sweden.

 

Why should customers choose Elval Colour?

Elval Colour has the advantage of being a vertically integrated group with full product traceability. The company has been in the coating and ACP business for many years, and has extensive experience that is matched by very few companies around the world. In addition, we can provide our customers with end-of-life product solutions for complete recycling. Finally, our consumption of natural resources is far lower than the competition and this is down to the extremely strict environmental regulations in Greece.

 

 

Interview Dimitris Alexandropoulos, Plant Manager Elval Colour Interview, LEAF REVIEW




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