Going Green and Saving Green Part II

By Julie Bos
In the last issue of LabTalk, we highlighted the many ways optical labs are becoming more eco-conscious. But behind the scenes, another group is also demonstrating notable leadership in the green movement—today’s manufacturers.

Not only are these companies doing their part by offering eco-friendly optical lenses, consumables and equipment, they’re modeling sustainable practices in their own facilities, which can serve as inspiration to us all. Here’s an overview of their products and practices that can help further your lab’s quest to better protect planet Earth.

Eco-Friendly Products

952A Recycling and Filtration System—Practical Systems, Inc. PSI’s 952A Recycling and Filtration System is a “green” way to improve your edging process. It removes abrasive solids and plastic particles from edger coolant, thus allowing it to be recycled. Plus, by connecting the cooling coil to a chiller, coolant temperatures will remain consistent all day, thus reducing reworks caused by inconsistent sizing. The unit pays for its self quickly by saving on coolant costs as well as reducing your water usage and waste. The 952A is simple to install and service, requiring minimal maintenance and is inexpensive to operate. It can also be used to recycle and filter fining water.

Backside Scratch Resistant Spin Coatings—Ultra Optics

Ultra Optics has been an eco-friendly supplier of Backside Scratch Resistant Spin Coatings for more than 13 years, offering solvent-free coatings that have virtually no waste for the customer and eliminates any hazardous waste disposal that dip- and solvent-based coatings require. The cost savings comes from eliminating the hazardous waste disposal and by providing a very inexpensive per-lens cost. BioCool and PractiCool Coolants—PSI

These are biodegradable and non-toxic generator and edger coolants for glass and plastic lenses.

• BioCool helps prevent equipment rusting. It’s non-foaming, oil-free and provides superior lubricity while resisting bacterial growth.

• PractiCool is a fully synthetic, water-based coolant that was designed specifically for the optical industry. It contains a special polymeric additive to provide rapid swarf settling. It forms a clean, clear, stable solution in all types of water and leaves a soft, oily residue that’s not stiff, tacky hard or crystalline.

E2G Blocking System—Gerber Coburn

In 2008, Gerber Coburn introduced a new, eco-friendly E2G Blocking System, which consists of the E2G blocker, new surface blockers, a deblocker and a proprietary environmentally safe medium called Onyx-Bond.

Onyx-Bond is a reusable, machinable and eco-friendly blocking material that can be used in the processing of all conventional and digital (free-form) lenses. Because the material is neither wax nor alloy, Onyx-Bond eliminates the harmful effects of alloy and EPA issues associated with alloy contamination, while removing lens cleanup issues attributed to wax materials. This new material has proven to be completely compatible with AR coatings. Additionally, with the blocking firmness of alloy and friendliness of wax, Onyx-Bond allows knife-edge and digital (free-form) lenses to be produced to the required specifications. All of this is done without damage to the lens or to generator cutting tools.

The new deblocker easily removes the Onyx-Bond in a single wafer form, leaving no residue on the lens. It provides for easy cleanup and ensures a clean lab environment. Once deblocked, the Onyx-Bond is placed back into the E2G premelter, where it’s remelted and ready for continued blocking.

Euro-Kleenchill Polishing System—Europtica, distributed by Gerber Coburn

Another eco-friendly product is the Euro-Kleenchill Polishing System. Europtica, distributed by Gerber Coburn, offers a wide range of systems that address all aspects of fluid management—from filtration through chilling—for all prescription laboratory machinery. Not only do these systems bring substantial economic and production benefits but also address environmental protection needs, such as reduced polish waste disposal (i.e., yearly instead of weekly). The Kleenchill Geno generator waste system re-circulates, filters and chills coolant water for generators and edgers, It also cuts pollution, is compliant with water authority regulations and increases quality while cutting costs. Edgers by National Optronics

National Optronics edgers operate dry; therefore, they eliminate the need for water, and the dry debris is more environmentally friendly to dispose. Through creative software programming and energy efficient components, these products have also reduced the amount of energy needed to operate.

Fusion Non-Alloy Surface Blocker—Schneider Optical Machines

Using a non-alloy, fully biodegradable plastic material, the Fusion blocker eliminates alloy use in surfacing labs. The material is a fraction of the cost of alloy, is reusable, recyclable and requires no special handling or environmental concerns. This product enables labs to eliminate the environmental issues of today’s alloy-based blocking, while also improving the surfacing process.

Nucleo Blocking Solution—Satisloh

Nucleo meets the long-demanded need for an environmentally-friendly and economical blocking solution, while offering so much more. This new integration platform links numerous steps in the Rx lens manufacturing process and presents several green opportunities for labs. It eliminates tape, alloy and the need to block a second time for edging. Plus, the patented plastic blocks are both re-usable and recyclable.

Purity Polish Pad—PSI

Last December, PSI was proud to announce the new Purity Polish Pad, an environmentally friendly polish pad that uses natural rubber, less dyes and new manufacturing technologies that keep slurries cleaner and reduce polish carry out. High-density fibers keep the polish on the lens, allowing cycle times on all lens materials to be reduced to five minutes. A five-minute cycle time maximizes throughput while maintaining superior surface quality. The pad’s light yellow color is a result of less dye, which eliminates bleed off into the slurry. Precision rayon fibers resist sheering, keeping slurries cleaner and extending the life of the polish. Durable low-density, high strength textiles reduce polish carry out. The pad’s balanced foundation of strength and firmness makes for easy application and one-piece pad removal from the lap. Purity polish pads are available in both 7 and 16 petal configurations in both low and high tack adhesives.

Quick Clear Neutralizer and 2001 UV Concentrate—PSI

These biodegradable and non-toxic products are ideal for your eco-conscious tinting departments.

• Quick Clear Neutralizer removes color from plastic, high index and polycarbonate lenses without yellowing. It’s a self-cleaning formulation offering low evaporation. It’s also non-toxic and biodegradable.

• 2001 UV Concentrate has been independently tested and proven to block 99.9 percent of harmful UV rays without fading over the life of the lens without yellowing. Non-toxic and biodegradable, it’s recommended for plastic and high-index lens materials. It’s also economical: A 4 ounce bottle makes one quart, which treats up to 200 pairs of lenses.

Eco-Friendly Practices

Here’s more good news. Manufacturers’ green initiatives don’t end with products. Many are also taking bold initiatives within their own company to become greener and less wasteful. Here’s a glimpse of what’s going on today:

Carl Zeiss Vision

Carl Zeiss Vision takes pride in green practices within its coating processes, which are used in many labs, as well as in lens processing at its own Carl Zeiss Vision Laboratories. Here are some specifics:

• In coatings processes, the company offers caustic-neutralizing processes, rather than having to dispose of caustic.

• It offers collection of some process-spent/used AR chemicals.

• It has alloy-traps installed in its generators to avoid the waste of lead-laden blocking alloy.

Essilor of America

Essilor recently announced that its Airwear polycarbonate lenses are made using environmentally-conscious practices. These responsible manufacturing initiatives include:

• Packaging: Semi-finished Airwear lenses come in 100 percent recyclable cardboard made from 100 percent recyclable wooden fibers, helping eliminate 460,000 pounds of global plastic waste every year.

• Water consumption: 100 percent recycled water is used for the production of Airwear lenses, thereby conserving millions of gallons of water.

• Recycling excess material: Airwear lenses re-purpose unused materials to other industries, such as automobiles and toys.

National Optronics

National Optronics has long been an advocate of conserving energy. Recycling paper and choosing energy-efficient lighting are two ways this company makes a conscious effort to conserve or reduce its use of natural recourses.

REM Eyewear

Last fall, this company made headlines when it completed the first, cable-suspended solar energy system over the parking lot at its headquarters in Sun Valley, Calif. The revolutionary photovoltaic system created by P4P Energy is expected to generate 40,877 kilowatt-hours of renewable electricity per year, enough to power five to six single family homes and prevent 1.5 million pounds of carbon from being released into the atmosphere.

The uniquely aesthetic solar panel system is designed to utilize otherwise untapped air-space, and differs from conventional solar installations by eliminating the need for excessive use of columns and foundations that traditionally support photovoltaic panel arrays. Instead, hundreds of panels can lie atop low-cost cables that span as much as 200 feet across, helping bring economic parity between the cost of solar energy and fossil fuel-generated power. The suspended solar panels also provide shade for vehicles in the company parking lot…another bonus.

Transitions Optical

Transitions has taken significant steps to reduce electricity use and emissions over the past several years to minimize the impact of its global operations on the environment. Because elimination of all emissions is extremely difficult with the limitations of today’s technology, the company has taken the extra step of purchasing renewable energy credits that support wind farms to offset their remaining carbon footprint. As a company, Transitions has also:

• Made operational improvements to reduce electricity usage and emissions, including the installation of variable frequency drive motors, work efficiencies to eliminate weekend production, building management system adjustments and rain water collection for reuse in cooling towers.

• Cut energy consumption: At U.S. facilities, Transitions has witnessed 15 percent reductions in electricity usage, 34 percent reductions in water usage and 10 percent reductions in gas usage. Its usage of deionized water, which is processed water that is recycled and reused, was also reduced by 40 percent.

• Purchased Green-e Energy certified Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) to match 100 percent of its electricity use at U.S. facilities, and Green-e Climate certified carbon offsets to counteract all direct greenhouse gas emissions generated at company-owned facilities, as well as all business-related employee air and car travel.

Ultra Optics

Ultra Optics has made many changes in packaging and shipping practices by using cornstarch packing peanuts instead of polyfoam peanuts for smaller, consumable shipments; and utilizing a fiberboard box shredder to re-use boxes as packaging material for machinery shipments instead of a spray in place foam. Also for machinery shipments, Ultra Optics now has the crating returned to be re-used as well. The company also changed its coating bottles from plastic to aluminum, which is more easily recycled and has a better impact on the environment.

Vision-Ease Lens

In 2008, VEL began purchasing 100 percent renewable energy to power its Ramsey, Minn. headquarters and manufacturing facility. In addition, it revised its manufacturing and shipping for LifeRx lenses, eliminating shipping products across the country twice and saving more than 10,000 gallons of gas and 113 million tons of CO2 emissions per year. By contracting for renewable energy to power the Ramsey plant, VEL can eliminate 15,759 metric tons of CO2 emissions per year. These savings are equivalent to CO2 emissions from 1,788,767 gallons of gasoline. Translated directly to lens production, each pair of lenses produced at Ramsey using renewable energy eliminates 10.5 pounds of CO2 emissions.

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