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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Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time.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.

Cleaner Production - Solvent Reduction in the Printing Process -
WR Grace Australia Pty. Ltd

This case study is no longer current with respect to the Company's business activities and operations and was not updated in the review of 2001, but is retained for informational, educational and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

 WR Grace has achieved considerable savings from reducing solvent losses from its flexible plastic printing operations. The installation of enclosed ‘doctor’ blades on the printing presses and better control of ink viscosity is saving the company $600,000 per annum.


WR Grace is a leading company in perishable food packaging and speciality chemicals, with plants located throughout Australia. The company employs 850 people nationwide. The company's Fawkner plant in Melbourne participated in the Victorian Cleaner Production Demonstration Program in 1992. Under this program, the company investigated opportunities for the reduction of solvent use and emissions from its flexible plastic printing operations.

Pre-excisting Process

Pre-excisting Process

In the printing process, solvent is used as a carrier for the printing ink. Nearly all of the solvent is evaporated from the ink and is discharged to the atmosphere. This situation requires the installation of expensive incineration equipment to combust the solvent emissions. A schematic diagram of the process is shown here.

The control of ink viscosity is critical in the application of ink to the plastic. Historically, the viscosity was adjusted by the operator, based on a visual assessment.

Cleaner Production Initiatives

The cleaner production initiatives at the Fawkner plant were aimed at reducing solvent inputs into the printing process, rather than incinerating the solvent emissions. The initiatives included:

One of WR Grace’s printing presses

One of WR Grace’s printing presses

Advantages of the Process

The cleaner production initiative has delivered both economic and environmental benefits. The projected savings from enclosed doctor blades and automatic viscosity control are estimated at $600,000 per year.


Enclosed doctor blades $700,000
Electric pumps, auto viscosity control & direct solvent piping $680,000
Total Cost $1,380,000
Annual Savings $600,000
Payback Period 2.3 Years

In addition, the reduction in solvent usage places less reliance on the use of expensive control technology, such as catalytic incineration.

These cleaner production successes at the Fawkner plant encouraged the company to assess opportunities at its other plants.

Cleaner Production Incentive

The single most important factor in the company’s decision to investigate cleaner production opportunities was cost reduction. If savings could not be achieved, the company felt that it would be difficult to justify investment that would go beyond compliance.


There were a number of obstacles that the company faced in implementing cleaner production. These included:

To assist further adoption of cleaner production principles the company  included waste reduction as a Key Performance Indicator for line managers.

Date of implementation: 1992.
Case study prepared: February 1997 by ACCP 
Last reviewed: June 2001.
WR Grace is now part of Cryovac Australia Pty Ltd.
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