Small Steps Toward ‘Green’ Production

The majority of China’s export manufacturers cannot afford the investment required to run a fully sustainable production facility. But some are taking baby steps and modifying their equipment to decrease energy consumption. The high cost of investment and the long wait to see positive returns are holding back most China makers from “greening” their factories.

Many of those that have taken serious measures toward introducing more environment-friendly practices and equipment in their production lines have external funding. These include some Hong Kong-invested companies in Guangdong province that were qualified to receive subsidies from the SAR. By investing in advanced equipment, such businesses were able to reduce wastewater discharge from the printing lines or lower VOCs emitted during the painting process. The return on investment, however, can take between five and eight years, and most SMEs are reluctant to wait that long. Nonetheless, about one-fifth of China’s export manufacturers are willing to introduce small measures to lower their carbon footprint. Most steps are geared toward reducing factories’ electricity consumption. Energy-saving modifications Plastic-injection machines, for instance, are being fitted with inverters that can decrease energy use by 30 to 60 percent. Widely used in many industries, the machines often need to run 24 hours daily. The inverter adjusts the pump speed automatically so that only the right amount of fuel is disbursed for each manufacturing step.

It costs about 30,000 yuan ($4,600) to fit a 37kW 350T plastic-injection machine with an inverter. Processing a plastic part generally takes 17 seconds, while the machine typically consumes 25kW per hour. Electricity charges, meanwhile, are 0.76 yuan ($0.12) per hour. By using an inverter, one unit running 24 hours daily can save as much as 4,100 yuan ($620) in energy costs.

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