Paint waste makes utilities green

Chrysler is looking to use paint residues from its automobile manufacturing to clean up mercury emissions from coal powered electric power plants.

The paint solid residues are said to contain nanostructured titanium dioxide which can chemically bond with mercury and thus has the potential to remove them with an efficiency of greater than 95%, according to University research scientists involved in the project.

Chrysler said it is already recycling the dried paint solid waste from its assembly plants in St. Louis, Mo., for use in Amaren Corporation’s electric utility plant in nearby Meramec. Before their ‘Paint to Power’ program, Chrysler said the two St. Louis plants were sending one million pounds of dried paint solids to landfill each year.

Utility energy companies will be very much interested in the development of this project given the looming regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to cut mercury emissions from US electric generating plants. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), coal-fired plants are the largest single source of mercury emissions in the US and emit 48 tons/year of mercury. Trying to comply with this regulation using current technologies will be costly, according to the DOE.

The electric power industry is currently studying the use of various chemicals, or “sorbents,” such as activated carbon, to remove mercury from power plant emissions in a more economical way.

The Chrysler project could be a win-win situation for everybody where automotive manufacturers could reduce the dumping cost of their paint waste; utility companies will not only be able to comply with the EPA regulation but also reduce cost of mercury removal from their plant emissions; and consumers will not only have a cleaner environment but might have lower utility bills in the long run…if the cost of coal will not soon go up too.

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