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Tannery Effluent Treatment

Despite all preventive measures, a sizeable portion of pollutants can only be removed by the end-of-pipe methods, i.e. treating effluents discharged in the course of leather processing. One of the most successful areas of interventions implemented or facilitated by UNIDO was designing and managing the construction of cost effective [Common] Effluent Treatment Plants ([C]ETP). More than 250 such plants have been designed, established or upgraded through various technical assistance projects. Achievements and experiences were documented in technical papers, reports and manuals which are available in this section. A special Animated Visual Training Tool was also developed by UNIDO and is available in the section “e-Learning".

Th report provides an overview of publications, standards and references for the calculation of the Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) of the product Finished Leather together with recommendations for harmonization and the main elements needed to define system boundaries. The inherent complexity and inadequate exactness of carbon footprint analyses contrasts with the need to communicate the results in a simple, clear and unambiguous way. The report was prepared for and presented by Mr. F. Brugnoli  in the 18th  UNIDO Leather Panel in Shanghai/China September/2012

International concern has increased over the years on Climate Change. The ten hottest years on record have all occurred since 1998. Out of the last 21 years 18 are among the 20 warmest years since 1880. Data and findings add weight to the common conclusion that the clear long-term trend is one of global warming. Most of the observed increase in global average temperature since the mid - 20th century is very likely due to the observed rise in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations. Among these, particular attention is paid on CO2 (carbon dioxide). Latest estimates show that global CO2 emissions increased to 30,600 million tonnes in 2010. Industry and manufacturing contribute for 19% of all Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Interest has been developed in estimating the total amount of GHG produced during the various stages in the life cycle of products. The outcome of these calculations, are referred to as Product Carbon Footprints (PCFs). Currently, there is no single methodology and no agreement has been reached internationally on Leather PCF calculation methods.

Conventional technologies for treatment of tannery effluent are generally energy & chemical intensive and continuous process monitoring and control are required to achieve optimum results. In search for alternatives, robust, easy to operate and low maintenance technologies, constructed wetland system, also known as root zone treatment system, using reeds for treatment of effluent, has been considered a possible option. This system is widely used in Europe and elsewhere to treat municipal sewerage. However, there was no practical experience, at least at semi-industrial scale, about its applicability in purification of tannery effluents. Accordingly, in cooperation with willing tanneries and management of common effluent treatment plants (CETP)  in Tamilnadu, India, UNIDO, under its Regional Programme, established four pilot and demonstration reed beds, each with different features, to deal with effluent of different characteristics. Practical experience and results are reported in this paper.

Under the Regional Programme for pollution control in the tanning industry in South-East Asia UNIDO has been actively looking for methods to improve conventional treatment processes which simultaneously reduce the nitrogen content and give the possibility of dealing with TDS/chlorides present in the effluent. The following technologies relating to the issues mentioned were implemented in pilot demonstration units:

  •  Mechanical/manual removal of excess salt from wet salted hides and skins
  • Reverse osmosis (RO) of treated tannery effluent
  • Improved solar evaporation
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) deliming in a small scale tannery to reduce ammonical nitrogen
  • Constructed wet land treatment system (reed beds) possibly resulting in nitrification/denitrification
  • Ultrafiltration

A study with preliminary estimates of costs of multistage evaporation system to recover salt from reject generated by RO has also been prepared.

In another study, the scope of replacement of secondary clarifier in the biological treatment stage by ultrafiltration has been assessed. (Mladen Bosnic, December, 1997).

This report deals specifically with ultrafiltration.

UNIDO through its Regional Programme for Pollution Control in the Tanning Industry in South-East Asia has been actively looking for solutions to tackle saline tannery effluent. The following technologies have been tested at pilot scale demonstration units (PDUs):

  • Mechanical / manual removal of excess salt from wet salted hides and skins
  • Reverse osmosis (RO) of treated tannery effluent
  • Improved (accelerated) solar evaporation
  • Recycling of floats in the beamhouse
  • Use of ultrafiltration in tannery effluent.

This report provides preliminary estimates of costs of setting up a multistage evaporation system for recovery of salt from the concentrate (reject) resulting from the Reverse Osmosis (RO) of treated effluents..

Total dissolved solids (TDS), specifically chlorides, in effluent are a major concern for its discharge into surface waters and its use for irrigation. Conventional treatment systems do not help reduce TDS in the industrial effluent. Taking advantage of the sunshine available for most part of the year, tanneries in Tamil Nadu, India, were required by the regulatory authority to segregate highly saline effluent (soak and pickle streams)  and evaporate it in solar pans. Due to very dissapointing results of evaporation in solar pans attempts have been made to accelerate the evaporation by simple means like combination of improved warming of the effluent and use of sprinklers. This paper reports on results of these pilot scale tests carried out under UNIDO Regional Programme in India during late 90's.

Presented publications documents UNIDO's involvement in promoting Eco-Labelling in the leather industry. Life-cycle assessments or the evaluation of the potential environmental impact of a product system from cradle to grave are fundamental features of some ecolabelling schemes and environmental management systems. Nowadays rhe environmental auditing protocol and reporting mechanism developed and maintained by the Leather Working Group aims to tackle important topical issues, and reflect improvements or changes of technology within the sector.

This short paper presented during the 14th UNIDO Leather Panel in Zlin/Czech Republic reports on the general situation, issues and methodology adopted as well as practical experience in implementation of occupational safety and health standards (OSH)  at work in tanneries under UNIDO’s Regional Programme for Pollution Control in the Tanning Industry in South East Asia in late 90-ies involving .international and local experts. For a practical OSH manual see the document Occupational Safety and Health Aspects of Leather Manufacture.

This manual has been primarily prepared for use by tanners and tannery supervisors. It has been designed to provide guidance and ideas on how to improve the occupational safety and health standards at work in tanneries and effluent treatment plants by presenting the sources of hazards in a tannery and pointing out simple measures, in a practical and easily understandable manner, for ready implementation on-site. A special attention is given to risks associated with hydrogen sulphide gas, H2S. The manual was prepared under UNIDO Regional Programme for tannery pollution control in South-East Asia.

The essential part of any tannery waste audit is assessing the efficiency of existing operations carried out during the leather manufacturing process. Typically, tannery staff have a good idea of, and comparatively accurate figures on the waste resulting from specific operations such as fleshing, splitting, trimming or chrome tanning. Only rarely, however, they have a proper overview of the entire range of waste generated. Thus, when considering various cleaner technologies or waste treatment systems, having access to a complete computation of the overall mass balance certainly makes it easier for a tanner facing arduous choices. Dialogue with environmental authorities is also simpler if such figures are readily available. This paper attempts to provide a comprehensive computation of a mass balance and the efficiency of the leather manufacturing process for a tannery, seen as a closed entity. The calculations are deliberately based on operations in a hypothetical tannery processing bovine hides and producing upper leather for shoes. With minor exceptions (batch washing instead of continuous rinsing, splitting in lime, roller coating), it follows the conventional process.

Based on new data and requests from interested users, the revised second edition of the paper Pollutants in tannery effluents was prepared drawing on technical inputs by J. Buljan, I. Král, M. Bosnić, R. Daniels. This training material is primarily intended to meet the needs of tanners and people of different profiles associated with environmental protection in the leather industry in developing countries.

The environment is under increasing pressures from solid and liquid wastes as by-products from leather manufacture and tannery effluent create significant pollution unless there has been a form of treatment before discharge.  The industry has gained a negative image in the society with respect to its pollution potential and therefore the leather processing activity is facing a serious challenge.

The paper presents the main sources of pollution and typical pollution loads generated by tanning processes adopted by the tanneries in developing countries, volume(s) of wastewater discharged, the corresponding concentrations of main pollutants as well as the the table of widely prevailing discharge standards.

In this edition the main pollutants' parameters are elaborated in great detail, together with descriptions of their negative environmental impact. Air pollution and toxicity aspects are expanded and a concise chapter on Substances of Very High Concern, SVHC ( carcinogenic, mutagenic, bioaccumulative, persistent etc.) introduced. One can also find photos of equipment used for laboratory analysis.

For the country-wise overview of discharge standards (admittedly somewhat obsolete) please refer to Part II of the first edition.