Innovative technology is often used to develop new processes to achieve the same products, while reducing waste. Process redesign includes alteration of existing processes by adding new unit operations or implementation of new technology to replace outmoded operations. For example, a metal manufacturer modified a process to use a two-stage abrasive cleaner and eliminated the need for a chemical cleaning bath.
A classic example of a process change is the staged use of solvent. An electronics firm switched from using three different solvents—mineral spirits for machine parts, per-chloroethylene for computer housings, and a fluorocar-bon-mineral blend for printed circuit boards—to a single solvent system. Currently, fresh solvent is used for the printed circuit boards, then reused to degrease the computer housings, and finally, to degrease the machine parts. This practice not only reduces solvent consumption and waste, it eliminates potential cross-contamination of solvents, regenerates a single stream for recycling, and simplifies safety and operating procedures (U.S. EPA 1989).
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