Maintaining a Clean and Safe Rendering Facility

By Kurt Nagel, Cleaning Systems, Inc.

Rendering is one of the earliest forms of recycling and has gone through many changes throughout the years. One of the most significant changes facing the industry is continually reducing the environmental impact of the rendering process through more efficient equipment and environmentally friendly products used during routine equipment and facility cleanings.

It is important that each rendering facility follow an ongoing consistent cleaning schedule in order to keep all equipment working properly; reduce or eliminate potential safety issues, including the risk of fires; and maintain or increase overall productivity. Due to the large, continuous volume of products flowing through rendering plants on a daily basis, the need to clean all equipment and facilities efficiently is critical in minimizing overall downtime. This includes equipment designed for transportation, raw material handling, processing, in-plant movement, final product storage, delivery, and facilities that store all of the above.

Incoming Product
The majority of raw material from slaughterhouses is brought in by aluminum trailer, which is primarily used for its corrosion resistance due to the multiple cleanings they receive on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. In a few cases in the past, dangerous acids have been used in cleaning products to wash these trailers. Although these acids are highly effective in cleaning all surfaces, they will eventually damage aluminum trailers over time. This is evident if the aluminum finish on the trailer is “pitted” or has a white hue on the metal indicating an excellent chance that these dangerous acid cleaners have been used at some point to clean the trailer.

The other issue in using any acid product is that employees may be exposed to it, creating a health hazard. For example, hydrofluoric acid can cause some immediate discomfort when coming in contact with skin, but produces severe tissue damage and potential cardiac arrest after it is absorbed into the tissue and bloodstream. Therefore, it is highly recommended that acids (specifically hydrofluoric acid) are not used during the cleaning process. Other products available can clean just as well as those containing hydrofluoric acid. The best way to test these safe products is to contact a sales representative to come out and do a demonstration to show a product’s effectiveness.

Processing and Storage Equipment
During the rendering process, tons of raw materials are processed through various methods in the plant. This equipment needs to be cleaned routinely to minimize maintenance costs and downtime. Most rendering facilities take the processing equipment offline for a few hours or a day to perform routine cleanings. Finding a method and product that works effectively can help reduce this downtime.

From an environmental and safety standpoint, it is highly recommended that a non-acid, phosphate-free product be used to clean processing equipment. There can be issues with conveyor blades, chains, and other parts corroding and breaking over time if dangerous acids are used. Most of the metals used in equipment are not aluminum and therefore will corrode faster if acids are used during the cleaning process.

With a continuous stream of finished product housed in large storage tanks and bins, it is difficult to take these vessels offline to perform routine cleaning. However, it is highly recommended that routine cleaning be done to maintain finished product quality and minimize maintenance costs and safety issues.

Cleaning Systems
The rendering process yields many in-plant airborne fats, oils, and solid particles due to the amount of heat and steam used to separate the end products. These particles collect on every surface in the rendering plant and while most of these surfaces are not mechanical (moving) parts, they need to be cleaned on a regular basis in order to reduce or eliminate any contact or slip hazards associated with the build-up of this material. Another hazard that could occur is fire. If a fire were to start, it could quickly spread, burning this built-up material along the way and leading to damage to the plant that could result in days of downtime, depending on the severity of the damage.

One challenging cleaning issue for most rendering plants is finding a safe, effective product and system that will reach areas of the plant that are difficult, if not impossible, to reach. There are safe, effective products in the industry today along with delivery/application systems that can reach most, if not all, areas of a rendering facility. Some systems being used in rendering facilities today can even reach up to 40 feet away, keeping employees safe while getting to those hard-to-reach areas.

There are several high-pressure nozzles currently on the market. One very effective device is the downstream injector system. A normal high-pressure washer delivers the cleaning product up to 20 feet while the downstream injector system delivers cleaning solution up to 40 feet, reducing or eliminating the need for lifts, scaffolding, and manual labor to scrub hard-to-reach areas.

As stated previously, a variety of products have been used to clean equipment and facilities within a rendering facility. Some products are very harsh and dangerous acids while other products are not effective and require manual labor to clean the equipment and facilities. It is recommended to use a product that provides the best of both worlds – effective cleaning along with safe handling for employees. There are multiple products out there made by various industrial chemical manufacturing companies that are both safe and effective.

Although there are many products on the market today that are self-described as safe, it is important to check the labels or safety data sheets to ensure that the products being used do not contain hydrofluoric acid, ammonium biflouride, phosphates, or solvents. There are safe, highly effective alkaline products that do not contain these harmful materials and are just as effective when used at the recommended dilution ratios.

In conclusion, it is very important to keep rendering plants clean for efficient productivity and for the safety of employees. Be sure to look at the types of cleaning products currently being used to ensure they are the safest, most effective ones available, and that the best method of delivery for those products is in place.

February 2013 RENDER | back