For many gasket manufacturers, including the Zatkoff Seals & Packings’ Gasket Manufacturing Division, following environmentally sustainable practices is not only the right thing to do for the future, it has become a business imperative — part of the "triple bottom line", comprising of profits, environmental, and social requirements. In fact, sustainable business practices can provide tangible opportunities and benefits for manufacturers. Often, the impact that products have on the environment are not unearthed until one examines the entire life cycle of a product.
Gasket manufacturers and fabricators, like most other industries, are exploring methods to meet the challenge of increasing demand for low carbon products in order to reduce pressure on the environment. Utilization of new materials and improved manufacturing efficiencies are creating opportunities to reduce stresses on valuable natural resources.
The experience of these companies has already revealed the value of measuring product-level greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions:
- Reduced operating costs from improved operational efficiencies and lower energy and raw material emissions.
- Competitive advantages from developing more sustainable products that meet or exceed customer expectations.
- Reduced exposure to risks by managing, or avoiding, events that could increase costs, reduce market share, or damage reputation.
- Motivated employees, who appreciate their employers investing in a sustainable global future.
- Differentiated their products to customers.
- Protected their corporate brand and reputation.
In order to meet the growing environmental concerns of their customers, Zatkoff Seals & Packings, the largest independent distributor of seals in North America, commissioned an independent comparative product life cycle emission analysis. This analysis compares the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced by the Synthetic Fiber and Nitrile Butadiene (SFNB) gasket, which is manufactured with the calendering process, to the emissions of the Rubber-Edged Composite (REC) gasket, which is manufactured with the Beater-Addition process.
This study investigates the hypothesis that the REC gasket has a significantly greater environmental impact than the SFNB gasket, due to its higher GHG emission output and energy use. This study focuses on a relative comparison of the raw material processing, transportation, and specifically, on the manufacturing phases of the two gaskets, rather than simply the absolute carbon emissions associated with each gasket. It is important to note that the gasket materials are produced by two very different manufacturing processes, the Beater-Addition process, and the calendering process. The models used were designed specifically for calculating energy emissions in each stage of the gaskets supply chain.
The SFNB gasket offers up to 30% emission reductions, including energy savings around water and forestry, when compared to the REC gasket.
This study reveals that not all gaskets are created equally. By comparing the manufacturing process of the REC gasket and the SFNB gasket, it is discovered that the production process matters a great deal for the environment. The Beater-Addition process produces a larger greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint, due primarily to the energy used in the manufacturing process. By conducting a product life cycle assessment, this study compares the environmental impact of each gasket. This study concludes that the SFNB gasket offers significant environmental benefits. The SFNB gasket offers up to 30% emission reductions, including energy savings around water and forestry, when compared to the REC gasket.
The Calendering Compression process by which the SFNB gasket is manufactured has a lower GHG emission or energy consumption in all the areas identified in this study. More research is needed to understand the total emission related to each gasket’s supply chain production and consumption. This will affect the full "carbon footprint" of the two processes, and their overall environmental burden. However, for all indication, the emission gap advantage for the SFNB gasket will only widen.