Fine-tuning7 November 2002
The workshop was opened by Francis Nhema, Minister for the Environment and Tourism. He thanked the Swiss government, which is financing Unido sponsored environmental projects, and Unido and Esalia for organising the event. The Minister emphasised the need for tanneries to investigate the potential effects of pollution before starting production and also to institute measures to minimise such problems. This could only be achieved, he said, by carrying out regular environmental audits. 'An effective blend of better environmental management, cleaner technology and waste control, is the only viable long-term solution to the challenges of combining an economically healthy industry with environmental protection', he said. Unido Regional Coordinator, Yassin Awale, began by emphasising that 'Fine-tuning existing technology' was the third phase of the Unido project US/RAF/97/010. Phase 1 dealt with end-of-pipe solutions, including improvement of existing tannery machinery and installation of modern cleaner technology equipment, upgrading of effluent treatment plants and training operators and associated laboratory staff. Phase 2, 'Cleaner technology options', covered high chrome exhaustion, low sulfide dehairing processes, carbon dioxide deliming, compact retannage and wet-white leather processing. The key functions of phase 3 involves selecting and training staff (environmental coordinators) - from ten plants in the region - to recognise environmental danger areas in tanneries. This called for knowledge of environmental audit techniques designed to reveal all pollutant origins and so enable definition of measures for reduction. Imponente Tanning and Belmont Leather in Zimbabwe were two of ten tanneries in the region selected for initial experimental applications. The results showed cleaner technologies were a viable option, subject to tailoring applications to individual plants. One suit did not fit all! Also established was a critical need for the audit of existing processes before the introduction of cleaner technologies, ie prior determination of a database against which the results of correctional measures could be evaluated. The purpose of the workshop was to widen awareness of environmental improvements achieved at the selected tanneries, the procedures and methodology adopted, and their suitability for use regionally. Lewin Mombemuriwo from the Cleaner Production Centre of Zimbabwe (CPC-Zim), spoke about the theory and application of environmental auditing. He covered the motivation behind audit procedures, the business implications which could be involved, the strategies employed. He listed the features of a sound environmental policy, the snags which could arise, the goals to be achieved and their integration into core business practices - so ensuring maximum economic, environmental and social benefit. Mombemuriwo stressed the necessity for observance of environmental rules: at plant level, the need to follow the twin paths of pollution source reduction and the need for recycling, the latter preferably on-site. Pollutant reduction, he said, could be tackled by both product substitution and changes in product composition. Control could be achieved by both input material changes and technological alterations or modifications. Sound operating practice helped, he said, and also well thought out procedures for loss prevention, waste stream segregation, material handling and product scheduling; all had a place in an audit. But genuine managerial support was the most important factor. 'The CPC-Z', Mombemuriwo said, 'has assisted in many industrial audits, including two at Zimbabwe tanneries, Belmont Leather and Imponente Tanning. Following reviews by management, most proposals made had either been implemented or were in the course of being introduced. The results at both tanneries are impressive.' 'Given thorough environmental audit and impartial review of all data before development of an improvement plan, beneficial results were certain', he added. To ensure no aspect was overlooked, a Cleaner Production Assessment Tool Kit had been prepared by the CPC (Zim) and participants were expected to use the kit during a planned practical group visit to Eagle Tanning, Marondera. Mombemuriwo dealt with auditing extensively. Despite it being an abstruse subject, he achieved clarity and brevity. Rudoph Darck, Imponente Tanning, Harare, Zimbabwe, delivered an excellent paper on the practical experience of environmental auditing at Imponente. It was well delivered, interesting and clearly demonstrated the rewards of cleaner technology given the essential ingredients - management support, a comprehensive audit and clearly defined goals. Imponente Tanning are part of the Superior Holdings Group, which now comprise several companies. Superior Footwear, the oldest in the group, were established in 1967 and Imponente Tanning in 1972. Imponente are now a medium scale enterprise, employing 200 people, and have the capacity to process 1,000 raw hides daily. Production is normally from wet-salted stock. In 1999, Superior Holdings, always a well managed and progressive organisation, decided to implement a formalised quality management system based on ISO 9000 and an environmental management system in accordance with ISO 14001. Wet-blue production averages 16.5 tonnes daily, from three drums of 5.5 tonnes capacity. About 30% of output is exported as wet-blue. The balance is taken to finished leather for sale local and regional markets. Darck's address and an earlier visit to the Imponente plant proved to be the highlights of the workshop. But this remark is no reflection on the workshop as a whole. The papers read were all well prepared and informative, a credit to Esalia in general and to Yassin Awale, who selected the speakers and was also responsible for organisation, in particular. Participants' reactions were favourable. The only minor criticism - a valid one in the author's view - came from a Namibian participant. He said he had enjoyed the workshop and learned a lot, but would have liked a little more practical content, for example, with regard to effluent control, how to determine chrome content in residual float, how to check sulfide and sulfate content in effluent. Not all tanneries could afford or attract a tannery chemist, especially if in a remote area.