In the manufacturing industry, sustainability is often a balancing act. Companies are under pressure to produce parts and products at the lowest possible cost and as quickly as possible. But prioritizing cost-savings and efficiency doesn’t leave much room for moving toward sustainability.
Despite these challenges, more than 40 percent of respondents in the industry report that sustainability is top-of-mind. Keep reading as we look at some of the sustainability efforts in manufacturing that are making waves in the industry.
The world runs on rubber. From tires to rubber gloves, demand is high for rubber production. While rubber can be recycled, making it more eco-friendly than other in-demand industrial products like oil, its reliance on rubber trees, the space they require for growth, and the impact of cutting them down do impact the environment and create a large carbon footprint.
One of the latest innovations in sustainable manufacturing is bio-based rubber. Used in automotive applications, this EPDM rubber produces ethanol using Brazilian sugar cane — a renewable resource. The result is rubber production with a lower carbon footprint that requires less space for production, helping to reduce greenhouse gases but without sacrificing the quality of the rubber. Apple Rubber is moving into the field of bio-based rubber to deliver the same high-quality industrial supplies our customers have come to expect while doing our part to protect the environment for future generations.
Bio-based rubber is paving the way toward fewer carbon emissions in the rubber manufacturing industry. But this industry has already been making waves for decades regarding recyclability. The same can’t be said for the plastic industry. Each year, more than 270 million tons of plastic is produced — and more than 275 million tons of plastic waste is created. Experts estimate that more than 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic waste are in our world’s oceans today. With plastic taking between 500 and 1000 years to degrade, this pollution isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Bioplastics may be the answer. Made from renewable resources like corn or sugar cane, these plastics create fewer carbon emissions in production and are biodegradable.
Lowering Water Usage in Production
The American west is facing an extreme drought in water supplies across the region. But even in areas that aren’t facing water shortages, the excessive use of water in manufacturing has been a topic of conversation and concern for some years. For instance, producing a single pair of Levi jeans takes a whopping 2,781 liters of water.
Many other industries face similar high water usage levels during the production process. This has led many companies to look for ways to reduce water usage. Levi, for instance, has developed a range of techniques that allow them to cut water usage by as much as 96 percent.
Sustainable Innovations in Manufacturing
From lowering water usage to developing bio-based rubbers and plastic alternatives, these are just a few ways the manufacturing industry focuses on sustainability. Often, these innovations lead to additional sustainable measures as well. For instance, less water usage also leads to less energy usage. At the same time, bio-based rubber manufacturing reduces greenhouse gas production because it requires a smaller footprint to farm sugar cane versus growing rubber trees.