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  Capsule Report, Nickel Plating: Industry Practices, Control Technology and Environmental Management (40 pp, 452 KB) (EPA/625/R-03/005) April 2003

This capsule report was prepared under the direction of EPA's Office of Research and Development to assist the metal finishing community with the management of nickel-plating environmental issues. This report:

  • Provides the rationale for developing the document
  • Identifies the intended user audience
  • Presents the framework for evaluating nickel-plating management practices from case studies that incorporate cost-effective solutions to solving persistent nickel-plating problems
  • Provides a current analysis of the nickel-plating industry from a technical, economic, and regulatory perspective

This report is organized into six chapters that include recommendations. Chapter 1 provides an introduction and scope of the issue.

Chapter 2 gives a profile of the nickel-plating industry, including an overview of both the nickel electrodeposition process and electroless nickel deposition process. Nickel plating is accomplished by using a variety of chemical reagents in a rectified-direct current (electroplating) or via a chemical reducing agent with no rectified current (electroless plating). Decorative and other engineered coatings define the type of additives and formulations required by the plating practitioner. These formulations and additives are included in this overview.

Chapter 3 concentrates on the potential environmental releases from conventional operations within the nickel-plating industry. While some of these practices vary among authorized regulatory offices, most apply to the nickel-plating industry within the United States. Air emissions, wastewater releases, and toxic and hazardous waste management issues are discussed in the context of worker safety and environmental impacts.

Chapter 4 addresses economic, technological, and regulatory factors.

Chapter 5 applies pollution prevention and control technology options to environmental release issues.

Chapter 6 discusses:

  • Economically achievable pollution prevention and control technology options
  • Environmental compliance consistency
  • Continued research and development needs for reducing waste generation through process changes, material substitution, water use reduction, metals recovery/recycling and bath life extension
  • Government/industry partnerships involving trade associations and professional organizations to consider solutions to environmental problems
  • Long-term research and development planning by the industry to enable companies to remain sustainable and competitive within a changing global economy

This report includes five major recommendations. The first is for facilities to continue the conduct of environmental audits and pollution-prevention opportunity assessments. These tools have proven very successful in assisting nickel-plating practitioners to identify where pollution prevention and environmental compliance can be accomplished. These tools help to establish baselines to provide for a systematic approach for environmental decision making.

The second recommendation is to implement environmental management techniques and approaches that encourage a more comprehensive life-cycle assessment, pollution prevention, environmental management systems that incorporate International Standards Organization (ISO) 14000, and environmental cost accounting, such as activity-based costing.

The third is to improve production and reduce environmental impacts through enhanced technology transfer by government, industry, academia, and trade associations. Several nickel-plating practitioner needs can be met with technical and management information transfer through case studies, reports, workshops, journal articles, meetings, and newsletters.

The fourth builds on the first three and calls for a continuation and enhancement of the existing EPA/industry partnerships for out-year planning by promoting more competition in the global market while reducing environmental impacts and improving productivity.

The fifth is for government and industry to develop more efficient plating solutions that use lower concentrations of nickel and produce lower levels of air emissions and other releases.

These five recommendations encourage the nickel-plating industry to use existing environmental management tools and technologies, improve upon their environmental management and technology base, seek competitive cost-effective environmental solutions using compliance through pollution prevention approaches, and conduct joint government/industry research and development that targets specific industry environmental issues.


Douglas Grosse

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