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Improving Air Quality in Your Community

Outdoor Air - Industry, Business, and Home: Electroplating Operations

You can help electroplating shops to reduce emissions of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) that may affect shop employees, their families, customers, and the community by encouraging shops to conduct these activities:


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Substitute Materials

      How?
  • Use cleaners such as water-based cleaners that have a lower hazardous air pollutant (HAP) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) content.
  • Use degreasing solvents with a lower HAP and VOC content.
  • Chromium electroplaters can switch from hexavalent chromium-bearing solutions, which can cause cancer, to trivalent chromium ones, which do not cause cancer.
  • Replace the cyanide in plating solutions with less toxic compounds like zinc chloride and pyrophosphate copper.
      Benefits
  • Reduces or eliminates emissions of HAPs and VOC such as cyanide.
  • In Washington State, substituting other cleaning materials for solvents resulted in hazardous materials reductions ranging from 3,600 pounds to 24,200 pounds (Washington State Department of Ecology).
  • One electroplating shop saved $300,000 by substituting sodium bisulfite and sulfuric acid for ferrous sulfate to oxidize chromic acid wastes. They also substituted gaseous chlorine for liquid chlorine to reduce the amount of cyanide used (EPA).
      Costs
  • Capital costs for any necessary equipment.
  • Training workers to use new equipment and procedures.
      More Information

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Lower Emissions at the Source

      How?
  • Cover containers of cleaning solvents and used shop towels. This will reduce fugitive emissions of hazardous air pollutants and volatile organic compounds as well as reduce the amount of solvent lost to evaporation, which can reduce the amount of new solvent purchased.
  • Securely cover all materials to reduce the chance of spills when transferring materials.
  • Use funnels or pumps to avoid spills when dispensing materials.
  • Switch to cleaning solvents that evaporate more slowly than toxic solvents.
  • Install ventilation hoods over plating baths to help protect workers from evaporative plating solutions.
      Benefits
  • Reduces or eliminates emissions of HAPs and VOC.
      Costs
  • Capital costs for any necessary equipment.
  • Training workers to use new equipment and procedures.

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Change Cleaning Procedures

      How?
  • Mandate a "clean as you go" policy to reduce the amount of solvent needed for removing heavy build-up.
  • Mechanically clean parts with a wire brush or sand-blasting equipment to reduce solvent use.
  • Use old solvent as a pre-wash or wipe for cleaning equipment or parts.
  • Switch to a water-based cleaning system like an ultra-sonic cleaner, manual parts washer, automatic spray equipment, steam cleaners, or baths with agitation.
  • Clean parts with hot water and detergent at high pressures in a pressurized washer.
      Benefits
  • Switching to a water-based cleaning solution can reduce air emissions, reduce air permit fees, and create a more pleasant work environment. One company saved $8,440 per year (Kansas Small Business Environmental Assistance Program).
  • In Washington State, eliminating vapor degreasers yielded reductions in hazardous waste ranging from 7,800 pounds to 28,900 pounds (Washington State Department of Ecology).
      Costs
  • Capital costs for any necessary equipment.
  • Training workers to use new equipment and procedures.
      More Information

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Recycle Materials

      How?
  • Use an on-site distillation unit to clean dirty cleaning liquid. This makes the solvent available for reuse in the production process. An on-site distillation unit also reduces the cost of both solvent disposal and fresh solvent purchase.
  • Use old solvent for cleaning very dirty parts.
  • Reuse plating bath solution and rinse water.
  • Reduce bath dumps by continuously filtering bath solutions.
      Benefits
  • One company uses active carbon filtration to regenerate plating baths and saves $67,420 in disposal costs and $55,000 in chemical purchase costs (Illinois Waste Management and Research Center).
      Costs
  • Capital costs for any necessary equipment.
  • Training workers to use new equipment and procedures.
      More Information
  • See information on EPA's Merit Partnership for other case studies. Exit EPA Disclaimer

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Change Production Processes

      How?
  • Review and streamline production processes to reduce overall cleaning solvent and degreaser use. For example, electroplaters can evaluate solvent quality, consolidate parts washing processes, and service units only when solvent quality dictates. These steps can greatly reduce solvent waste.
  • Lower emissions of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) such as cyanide, chromium and other heavy metals by using alternative electroplating technologies like thermal spray coating, vapor disposition, and chemical vapor deposition.
  • Minimize chemical usage and its associated emissions by using the lowest concentration of chemicals in the bath that will produce the desired results.
  • If possible, use mechanical scraping instead of a chemical solution to remove undesired buildup on the metal.
  • Change baths and rinses based on bath/rinse maintaining quality, not to meet an arbitrary schedule.
      Benefits
  • Converting to alternative plating processes may result in higher costs from research and development and new equipment, but these alternative processes often reduce operating costs due to waste disposal, feedstock costs, etc.
  • Some alternative processes may be more labor-intensitve, which results in higher labor costs, but these processes can significantly reduce the amount of HAPs emitted.
  • State, local, and Tribal pollution prevention offices may have funding opportunities available for electroplating shops wanting to convert to alternative plating processes.
  • Using a low concentration plating solution in 5 nickel tanks saved 1 company $1,300 in disposal and feedstock costs (EPA).
  • In Washington State, changing the production process yielded a reduction of 2,700 pounds of chromic acid (Washington State Department of Ecology).
      Costs
  • Capital costs for any necessary equipment.
  • Training workers to use new equipment and procedures.
  • Educating customers about new products.
      More Information

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