Sustainability: Environmental Stewardship at Waupaca Foundry

By Michael Hoecker, Energy Manager

Iron foundries are the ultimate recyclers, creating new products by recycling old iron castings and scrap steel. But melting metal requires large quantities of energy and we’re doing our part to change this reality in substantial ways. Waupaca Foundry maintains a formal sustainability program with four key areas of focus, along with specific objectives we’re striving to reach by the year 2020:

  • Reduce energy use by 25%.
  • Reduce water use by 80%.
  • Promote state-of-the-art pollution control technologies.
  • Reduce spent foundry sand by 30% while promoting offsite reuse/recycling opportunities of remaining spent foundry materials to achieve zero landfill disposal.

We're on our way to meeting these goals. Between 2009 and 2011 alone, we reduced energy intensity at all six of our plants by more than 16%. As part of our environmental stewardship, we've achieved some significant sustainability initiatives thus far:

  • Waupaca Foundry has been recycling foundry sand and related materials for more than two decades. Approximately 70% of foundry sand byproducts that can no longer be used in metalcasting are cleaned and reused in local projects including road and general construction, agriculture and geotechnical fill.

  • Closed-loop cooling water systems have reduced plant water cooling demands by 80% or more. In some cases, non-contact cooling water discharges are reduced to near zero and daily water use is drastically reduced.
  • Waupaca Foundry began retrofitting plants with sophisticated air pollution controls beginning in 1999. Both air emission controls and leak detection technology have surpassed regulatory requirements and created new industry benchmarks in pollution control.

  • Heat recovery systems at Plant 1 and Plants 2/3 in Waupaca have earned a $200,000 energy rebate from Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy. The plants use heat from the cupola iron-melting process to provide space heating requirements in the plant and hot water heat.

Most recently, we've been bringing energy efficient lighting upgrades to our plant floors and the results have been big and bright returns.

Waupaca Foundry Sustainability: LED Retrofit Initiative

LED bulbs have finally come of age. By now, most people recognize that changing out old incandescent light bulbs saves a lot of energy. LED bulbs use 75% less energy and last up to 10 years longer than incandescent bulbs. Multiply that by the number of lighting units in Waupaca Foundry’s 2.2 million square feet of plant space, and that’s a lot of energy saved. An all-out conversion of all our plants to LED is costly but it is part of our commitment at Waupaca Foundry. Financial incentives help us defray costs so we can tackle the challenge much faster and sooner, helping us meet our 2020 goal of reducing energy by 25%.

Production floors at Plant 6 in Etowah have already been entirely converted to energy saving LED fixtures. The plant received a $399,830 rebate from Etowah Utilities and the Tennessee Valley Authority, roughly 50% of the retrofit investment. Replacing conventional lights with LED lights will save the gray and ductile iron foundry in Etowah about 5,088,000 kilowatt hours which is equivalent to the annual electricity use of 339 average Tennessee homes. From an overall environmental perspective, this amount is a reduction of 2,933 tons per year of CO2 emissions, which equates to 885 acres of trees planted per year. Plant 4 is in the middle of the same production floor upgrades and has already received a $57,000 rebate from Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program. Plants 1,2,3,5 are also methodically converting a few areas at a time to LED lighting before moving on to the next ones. In addition, every expansion project Waupaca Foundry undertakes will include LED lighting as part of the project. All energy savings costs are reinvested in other sustainability initiatives and technologies to defray rapidly rising cost of energy.

Waupaca Foundry Sustainability: Addressing Energy Costs and More

Committing to sustainability helps us mitigate the rising cost of energy and that helps us maintain product costs that keep our customers happy. But that’s not the main reason for what we do. We do it, because it's absolutely the right thing to do. For our employees, our customers, our communities, and our planet.

We also think it’s important to the communities and customers we serve to tell our sustainability story through reliable reporting. We use the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) framework. GRI has become the de facto standard for measuring and reporting sustainability performance. You’ll find our 2014 report here.

This is an evolution and we’re learning more as we go. But one thing is certain: you can count on Waupaca Foundry to lead the way to sustainability and energy savings.