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In printing, automotive, manufacturing, electronics and machining industries, solvents of many kinds are used for cleaning and curing. From coating, painting, line flushing, stabilizing and degreasing operations, solvents are essential to effective operations.

Solvent users have a great deal of environmental responsibility. Solvent waste is hazardous and with its use there is a “cradle to grave” responsibility for safe disposal. EPA regulations say that generators of waste are held liable for the waste from the time it is generated at their facility to the time it is disposed of, even if it leaves your custody. The waste hauler and disposal facility ARE NOT liable under EPA law.

This article discusses the various options for solvent disposal and recovery and will help you understand the best options for your specific circumstances.


There are a number of options for solvent waste disposal.


  • Off-site by incineration/destruction
  • Contracting with a Treatment Storage and Disposal facility for recovery


  • Work with a third party solvent recovery firm
  • Investing in on-site solvent recycling systems


Off-site disposal methods are best if your waste stream is small and the amount of waste does not justify more in-depth on-site recovery methods.

  1. Off-site disposal is convenient because the waste stream is handled by specialists. However, there are a number of risks associated with using an outside service.
    • Cost: Off-site disposal represents a total loss of solvent as well as transportation costs to the disposal facility.
    • Regulatory concerns: unfortunately, you are liable for every drum of waste that leaves your facilities from cradle-to-grave.
  1. Off-site recovery allows for cost recovery by purchasing reclaimed rather than virgin solvent
    • Cost:  Off-site disposal costs can be high due to transportation requirements and liability concerns. Your storage volume may increase since you will need to store additional drums of solvents to keep your operation running continuously.
    • Quality issues: Reclaimed solvents may be cross-contaminated by other sources.
  2. With mobile solvent recovery, your transportation costs, liability and quality concerns are minimized but still present. However, to protect your operations from downtime, you must maintain a larger inventory of solvents to cover utilization between visits.


On-site recovery methods are best if your operations generate continuous waste. In these circumstances, you are under regulatory and economic pressure to reduce your waste stream.

Recycling Your Own Solvents

Recycling solvents is an affordable, environmentally effective option and enables recovery of as much as 99% of solvent waste. There are a number of environmental and economic benefits for recycling your own solvents.

  • Reduction in removal and disposal costs
  • Reduced inventory and the associated replacement costs of purchasing new solvents
  • Quality control over the reclaimed solvent
  • Substantial reductions in the waste solvent that leaves your facility and in the liability associated with that solvent
  • EPA compliance

How does on-site solvent recovery work?

Whether doing it yourself or working with an on-site managed solvent recycling service, solvent recycling is accomplished via distillation. A solvent distiller is loaded with waste solution and heated under a vacuum (which lowers the boiling temperature). When the waste solvent boils, it changes from liquid to gas which is then condensed and cooled. The contaminants are left behind and discharged. This discharge effectively reduces your hazardous waste volume by more than 95% – which, in turn, reduces your disposal costs.


When evaluating whether or not on-site recovery is the correct option for your business, it pays to assess the direct cost benefits by asking the following questions:

  • What is the volume of the waste stream? What is the projected volume of the waste stream?
  • What is the current disposal cost? Projected disposal costs?
  • What percentage of the waste stream can be recycled?
  • What does virgin solvent cost with/without recycling?
  • Which solvents/contaminants make up your waste stream?

When evaluating costs, you should also consider your material handling capabilities, internal processes, as well as safety, piping, storage and manpower requirements. It also makes sense to review hazardous operations to understand the risks of the solvent recycling process.

In the end, most facilities see immediate ROI. Recycling just a few drums of solvent waste per week, generates a return of 100% or more.

About Solvent Recycling Systems

At Solvent Recycling Systems, we provide a better and more sustainable model for solvent re-use and recycling. Our equipment is adaptable and durable enough to handle basic to complex manufacturing wastes while remaining easy to use and cost-efficient. Our solvent recovery equipment can recycle 98% of virtually any spent solvent used in a wide variety of applications.



Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Ben Bradley

Known for wearing plaid and sweater vests before they were popular, Ben Bradley is managing director of Macon Raine, Inc. (www.maconraine.com) - a management consulting, marketing and demand generation firm for technology organizations. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa and was a member of the undergraduate Iowa Writer’s Workshop. His interests include the intersection of technology and marketing. Because he was never very good at sports and doesn’t have many hobbies, his primary interests include the role of marketing on internal technology adoption, micro-finance, military uses of technology and media, self-organizing networks, network and physical security, collaboration and groupware. He frequently lectures his children on a variety of topics. Bradley was raised in Wheaton, Illinois and currently resides in Glen Ellyn, Illinois with his wife, two children and a purebred Latvian Goathound named Stella.

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