By Jodi Prill
Recover, Recycle, Reuse
Glycol recovery system meets environmental concerns, makes financial sense
Today, environmental sensitivity is among an airport's top priorities. Companies like Edgewater Support Services and Almon Environmental are offering airports and airlines the ability to collect glycol used for deicing operations and, in partnership with other companies, bring the water to suitable stormwater levels for disposal and recycle the spent glycol into a usable product. The technology is designed not only to comply with environmental regulations, but also to help airports keep budgets in check.
Glenn Vanderlinden, president of Edgewater Support Services, explains his company got its start in glycol recovery in 1992 when stormwater became a problem at Toronto 's Pearson International Airport .
Explains Vanderlinden, "We, along with other equipment distribution companies, were asked to take a look at supplying them with equipment that might be able to fix the problem. We demonstrated vacuum sweepers, mechanical sweepers, runway sweepers, every sort of thing you can think of. Everything was doing a little bit of the job, but nothing was really fixing the problem. We told Air Canada that if they were interested, we could build them a prototype. About six months later they came back to us after trying a bunch of things and agreed that they wanted to look at the prototype, which we built to collect the material; we call it a RampRanger. We were able to meet the compliance requirements of Environment Canada within less than two months."
The company continued collecting the runoff but was soon faced with the problem of customers having a difficult time in disposing of the material collected, Vanderlinden says. "The waste industry and sanitary sewers were struggling with taking anything with the kind of loading that it had. And basically our customers pressured us to find ways of recycling this material and handling what we were collecting."
In processing the material, Vanderlinden says the company soon realized the challenges involved. "First of all, the temperature you're operating at, volumes of material, storage requirements, and just trying to figure out what kind of end use we were supposed to process this material to, because there really were no markets to accept it. So we began to clean it and we found more and more efficient ways as we went and got to the point of making a virgin equivalent type of glycol and selling it to third parties. But it was economically marginal to do that, and could only be done if the customers weren't requiring us to deal with large amounts of stormwater."
Some four years ago, Edgewater was able to form a relationship with Octagon Process, one of the largest manufacturers of virgin wing deicer. Vanderlinden explains that Octagon was prepared to remanufacture wing deicer and was looking for a partner.
Together, Edgewater and Octagon Process gained the support of North-west Airlines to collect, process, and recycle the recovered glycol. "This material was in fact as good or better than the quality of the wing deicer being applied to their planes at the time."
STORMWATER IS FOCUS
For Vanderlinden, the primary focus is not the recycling side. As he explains, the recycling provides a cost-effective way of getting rid of the glycols recovered from stormwater.
"At the end of the day, none of these airports would have spent any money trying to contain or collect or retain any of this material if they didn't have a stormwater problem," he says. "They're not doing it because recycling is necessarily a money making, cost-effective thing to do. It is if you can collect the material at high enough concentrations. The thing that makes it worthwhile is if you're sending it to a sanitary sewer, they're going to charge you a disposal fee."