Eco-efficiency in the Metal Fabrication sector

09 November, 2005

An assessment of 10 metal trades/metal fabrication industries in Queensland and New South Wales as part of an Eco-Efficiency Agreement between Environment Australia and the Ai Group has found that the metal fabrication sector operates efficient business practices.

The highly competitive nature of the metal fabrication sector means that margins on jobs are tight and there is little waste.


The aim of the assessment was to identify eco-efficiency opportunities for the enterprise and, where practical, calculate the costs and benefits of these opportunities to determine their viability. The assessments undertaken as part of this study indicate that the metal fabricating sector does operate efficient business practices by necessity. While the eco-efficiency improvements identified during the assessment were relatively minor in each of the enterprises reviewed, extrapolation of the findings across the 8688 metal fabrication enterprises in Australia indicates that the cost savings identified can have a significant impact nationally.

Key findings from the assessment included:

1. All enterprises had Quality Management Systems to ISO 9001 or ISO 9002 and an Environmental Policy and/or an Environmental Management Plan

2. All enterprises demonstrated efficient operations with good housekeeping practices

3. There was strong staff awareness of general environmental duty and the practices of waste minimisation and recycling were actively supported

4. Metal segregation is well practised

5. As an energy efficiency measure, half of the enterprises utilised transparent plastic sheeting in their roofing (to a maximum of 10% area) to supplement natural lighting in the workshop

6. There are potentially substantial cost savings to enterprises in the purchase of bulk gas supplies. The monthly cost of individual welding gas cylinder rental can be high, depending on the number of cylinders. Utilisation of 12 or 16 cylinder packs offers cost savings, with large cost savings being achieved through bulk supply rental in the case of large users. This not only saves on transport, but also on handling (occupational health and safety issues) of individual cylinders

7. Two enterprises stand to gain considerable cost savings by reducing the amount of raw water purchased through recycling their wastewater stream (and hence also considerably reducing their waste water disposal charge)

8. One enterprise is estimated to save up to 75% of the amount of raw water purchased by storing and reusing water from their testing facility (thus avoiding discharge of this waste water)

9. By improving its waste water treatment plant process, the second enterprise stands to virtually eliminate its waste water stream to sewer from its production process by treatment and reuse of the treated waste water into a boiler.