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Environment industries archive


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Fildes Pty Ltd
Cleaner Production - Solvent Recovery in Flexographic Printing

This case study is no longer current with respect to the Company's business activities and operations and was not updated in the review of 2001, but is retained for informational, educational and historical purposes.


Fildes Pty Ltd is a long established, family owned company, located in Sandringham, Victoria. Fildes manufacture quality labels, bags and retail packaging. The company currently supplies 90 per cent of the Australian pharmacy market, as well as packaging for a wide range of high profile retailers.

The Process

As part of the manufacturing process, the labels and bags are printed with a range of client logos. In this printing process, denatured alcohol is used as a solvent for the printing ink.

Printing of labels

Printing of labels

Waste ink and solvent is generated from:

The waste solvent and ink mixtures were placed in drums and sent off-site for disposal by a licensed contractor. Annual waste solvent generation was approximately 9,600 litres.

Cleaner Production Initiative

Setting up a printing machine

Setting up a printing machine

Fildes installed a solvent recovery system that comprised a washing cabinet and distillation unit. The washing cabinet is used for cleaning machine parts that have become coated with ink during the printing process. Dirty solvent from the cleaning process, along with that from other sources, is then fed into the distillation unit. The solvent is boiled off and recovered as a clean solvent that can be reused in the printing process. A solid residue, principally containing the ink pigments and other contaminants, is left behind. This material is relatively inert, and is disposed of to landfill in the general solid waste stream.

The distillation unit has a capacity of 60 litres, and takes 10 hours to complete a distillation cycle. For each 100 litres of dirty solvent approximately 30 litres of clean solvent is recovered.

In conjunction with the use of the distillation unit, Fildes have also taken a number of steps to reduce the generation of waste ink. These include:

Advantages of the Process

The main advantage from the process has been to significantly reduce the generation of waste ink and solvent. Economic benefits have resulted from reduced waste disposal costs and a reduced requirement for purchase of new solvent.

Capital Cost $26,580
Annual Savings  
Waste Disposal $2,700
New Solvent $7,420
Total Annual Savings $10,120
Payback Period 2.6 years

Cleaner Production Incentive

The main motivations for installing the solvent recovery unit were the environmental improvements that would be achieved, and the cost savings that could be realised.


No barriers were experienced by Fildes in identifying, installing and operating the equipment.

Date of implementation: 1996.
Case Study Prepared: February 1997 by ACCP.
Last reviewed: June 2001.
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