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close this bookIndustrial Metabolism: Restructuring for Sustainable Development (UNU; 1994; 376 pages)
View the documentNote to the reader from the UNU
View the documentAcknowledgements
View the documentIntroduction
Open this folder and view contentsPart 1: General implications
Open this folder and view contentsPart 2: Case-studies
close this folderPart 3: Further implications
Open this folder and view contents12. The precaution principle in environmental management
close this folder13. Transfer of clean(er) technologies to developing countries
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentSustainable development
View the documentEnvironmentally sound technology, clean(er) technology
View the documentIndustrial metabolism
View the documentKnowledge and technology transfer
View the documentEndogenous capacity
View the documentCrucial elements of endogenous capacity-building
View the documentInternational cooperation for clean(er) technologies
View the documentConclusions
View the documentTwo case-studies
View the documentReferences
View the documentBibliography
Open this folder and view contents14. A plethora of paradigms: Outlining an information system on physical exchanges between the economy and nature
View the documentBibliography
View the documentContributors

Two case-studies

The two brief case-studies on cleaner technologies, presented below, follow the concepts laid out on pages 326-327 above regarding the crucial elements of endogenous capacity-building.

Cubatóo: From industrial cesspool to survival

Summary and conclusions of the case (Zulauf, 1991)

Cubatóo lies in a coastal plain near the large conurbation of Sãc Paulo, Brazil. The industries located in Cubatóo can be divided into three complexes, namely petrochemical (one oil refinery for over 150,000 barrels a day and 16 petrochemical plants, plus a paper mill and two concrete plants), steel (one fully integrated steel mill with 4 million tons capacity), and fertilizers (seven plants, plus a cement plant). The latter two complexes are located next to each other.

The installation of this massive industrial agglomeration, from the 1950s to the 1970s, was free from any environmental impact assessment or permit requirements. As a result, at a later stage, there were 320 pollution sources identified, 230 for air, 44 for water, and 46 for soil, all producing intense environmental degradation.

The main air pollutants were particulate matter, fluorides, ammonia, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides and others (chlorine, carbon dioxide, carbon moNoxide, benzene, etc. ). The main environmental parameters monitored in water were pH, dissolved oxygen, biochemical oxygen demand, total nitrogen, ammonia nitrogen, total phosphorus, mercury, phenol, and faecal coliform.

The pollution-control programme implemented since 1984 has reduced particulate emissions by 72 per cent, short of the 92 per cent target as a result of the inaction of the steel complex. Fluoride emissions have been cut by 92 per cent, ammonia by 98 per cent, hydrocarbons by 88 per cent, nitrogen oxides by 97 per cent, and sulphur oxides by 37 per cent.

Water pollutants have also been considerably reduced: organic load by 93 per cent, heavy metals by 97 per cent, fluorides by 92 per cent, phenols by 79 per cent, and settleable wastes by 90 per cent.

Solid wastes have been recycled, treated for storage, and disposed of properly on land.

Overall, it appears that the investment made in cleaner technologies paid off handsomely. The steel complex, however, did not invest adequately in cleaner technology owing to depressed prices for steel products and lack of profitability.

Despite all of these impressive relative reductions in pollution, the original level was so high that the current emissions still remain terribly high in absolute terms and further compound the environmental deterioration of four decades. For instance, the current load of particulates is still 32,000 tons per year, hydrocarbons 4,000, sulphur oxides 18,100, nitrogen oxides 1,700, ammonia 75, and fluorides 73. Regarding water pollution, the remaining load is 1,600 tons per year, of which heavy metals make up 44, fluorides 103, phenols 5.5, and settleable wastes 22 tons per year. The steel complex still dumps 860,000 tons per year of solid wastes on land.

This case, however, illustrates the importance of the stakeholders' dialogue in promoting "end-of-pipe" technology transfer. It also points out, in the case of the steel complex, the difficulties involved in bringing state-owned, loss-making enterprises in line with the overall consensus achieved.

Policy climate

Earlier attempts to redress the situation in Cubatóo met with failure. Before 1980 local industries and government launched an advertising campaign called "Valley of Life" to change the image of Cubatóo without seriously addressing the environmental issues. By 1980 the federal government had set up an interministerial committee. This generated technical assessments, but failed to engage the support of the relevant local stakeholders, as its work was opaque to the interested parties. On the basis of these experiences, a new state government decided, in 1983, to operate in a more transparent way, engaging the main stakeholders, including the press, in the decision-making process.

Portfolios of initiatives in cleaner technologies

The State Environmental Agency, CETESB, engaged the local industries in discussions about the choice of technologies and timetables for implementing them, in accordance with priorities agreed upon in advance. For instance, the abatement of emissions of fluorides, particulate matter, and ammonia was the top priority in the air-pollution field. After rounds of dialogues among the key stakeholders, the programme was agreed upon and implementation began in July 1984, with the endorsement of industry leaders, politicians, and other stakeholders such as environmental, religious, community, and union organizations.

Every three months an open meeting - in the presence of all interested stakeholders - was held to monitor progress in the implementation of the programme; there the participating parties were held accountable for delays and occasionally fined. The press published the results of these meetings, thus stimulating the good performers and pointing out those who did not meet their commitments.

Domestic and international partnerships

The equity in industries in Cubatóo is in the hands of private parties, Brazilian and foreign, and the state (federal and state). Those firms with transnational equity had access to their parent companies in implementing the programme. Brazilian firms, private and state-owned, obtained technologies from local and foreign sources. CETESB conducted studies and surveys in the Cubatóo area and expanded the environmental monitoring infrastructure. In the course of this, CETESB worked in partnership with some 35 other state and private organizations involved with technology, sanitation, water, and power.

The World Bank provided financing for the pollution-control programme (PROCOP), which was refinanced by local banks and managed, from the technical point of view, by CETESB. During 19841990 fines amounting to US$1 million penalized the non-performers and provided an additional income to the state.

Educational activities

Two important measures of the programme were a local environmental education project and community participation, engaging the key stakeholders. Information on the environment was shared with the Cubatóo stakeholders to allow them to engage in the dialogue that had been established in order to generate concrete proposals and to achieve consensus on directions to pursue. There were 13 community associations, 5 religious groups, and 10 unions involved in the process. Leaflets in support of environmental education were issued, covering the various facets of the Cubatóo problem. Meetings, seminars, and conferences took place to disseminate further information and to engage the stakeholders. There was, however, no particular effort to engage women in the process.

Borregaard/Riocell: Environmentally sound pulping

Summary and conclusions of the case (Slongo,1991)

Brazil is currently the eighth largest pulp producer in the world. Borregaard, of Norway, conceived, in the late 1960s, a scheme to integrate short-fibre pulping operations in southern Brazil with bleaching and global marketing in Norway. The project, in fact, gave Borregaard access to cheap fibre stock and shifted the pollution caused by pulping from Norway to Brazil. The return freight load of the ship that brought the unbleached pulp to Norway consisted of the chemicals required for the pulping and other processes in Brazil.

Borregaard had total control over the sales of the 190,000 metric tons per year pulp scheme, because unbleached short-fibre pulp has no international market. Nevertheless, as the project was implemented, the Brazilian National Social and Economic Development Bank became the major shareholder, although the operational control remained with Borregaard. Total investment at the time of startup, in March 1972, reached US$76 million. The plant employed 2,500 people. Sales were planned at US$22 million per year.

The environment was certainly not among the key criteria in the conception and location of the project. In fact, the lack of public concern over the pollution caused by much smaller plants, located near the pulp plant, was used, by the project promoters, as a licence to pollute even further. Straight economic feasibility was the yardstick for the assessment of the project. As plant operations began, its aggressivesmelling atmospheric emissions were regularly brought, by the prevailing winds, to the state capital of Porto Alegre and other nine neighbouring cities, with a total population of over 1.6 million inhabitants. The local newspapers started a press campaign that helped mobilize the population; and the plant was shut down in December 1973 for four months. At that time, the concentration of sulphur oxides in the atmosphere reached 1,800 parts per million (ppm), against the maximum limit set by the World Health Organization of 70 ppm!

In response to this challenge, cleaner technologies were gradually introduced over a period of 10 years. Meanwhile, the equity control changed from the bank to a private pension fund, and finally, in 1975, to a consortium of three Brazilian private companies. The name of the company was then changed to Riocell, to reflect the new ownership. More recently, after the bleaching plant started up, the company also changed its market strategy to move away from the commodity pulp market into the higher value-added customized pulp market, with substantial investment in automation.

In 1989 Riocell's annual sales reached US$223 million, with an average employment of 2,500 people. The output totalled some 310,000 tons per year (up from the design capacity of 190,000) and consisted of 260,000 tons of bleached pulp, 20,000 tons of soluble pulp for viscose making, 15,000 tons for paper and cardboard, and 15,000 tons of unbleached brown pulp.

Policy climate

Public clamour, fuelled by a press campaign, led to a change in the local policy climate that favoured the market penetration of cleaner technologies. This happened at a time when the press in Brazil was strictly censored on political grounds. But apparently the impact of the plant's pollution affected most parties equally. The change in ownership of the firm also brought the local concerns with regard to the environment and marketing closer to the decision-making of the company.

This case illustrates the importance of public opinion in bringing about change, even in a situation of limited freedom of expression. It also demonstrates that concentration of efforts towards endogenous capacitybuilding is a key to the ability to absorb and develop technologies for both endof-pipe and process change approaches.

Portfolios of initiatives in cleaner technologies

Successively cleaner production technologies were introduced to respond to the pollution problem. First, air oxidation was applied to the strong black liquor, to reduce sulphur emissions. Next, cheap sodium sulphate was replaced by the more expensive sodium hydroxide pulping. In 1975, a gas and condensate output treatment was introduced, which reduced by 90 per cent the biochemical oxygen demand of the liquid effluent. In 1979, a residual recovery system was implemented to prevent pollution at the source. In 1983, after a US$240 million investment (with 15 per cent for environmental protection alone), a fully-fledged bleaching plant began operation. In further response to external pressure, and in line with its newly found environmental zeal, Riocell invested US$19 million in a complete (all the way to tertiary treatment) effluent-treatment station. Over the years the firm spent some US$42 million for environmental protection activities.

The attitude of the firm towards the main stakeholders affected by its operations changed, over time, from neglect to respect. The additional investment required to redress the environmental impacts caused by its operations led the firm to seek a higher value-added strategy for its output in order to be able to stay competitive as well as environmentally sounder.

Domestic and international partnerships

As the firm evolved, from wholly owned subsidiary of a foreign concern to a Brazilian-owned private company, its attitude changed from one of total dependence on foreign knowledge to one that was enthusiastic about building endogenous capacity. A centrepiece of this strategy was the establishment of a technology centre.

The process started by the end of 1973, when the staff designed a plant for air oxidation of the strong black liquor. This plant converts the sodium sulphide into non-volatile sodium thiosulphide, thus reducing the emissions of sulphur into the atmosphere. The next step took place in March 1974, with the replacement of sodium sulphate by sodium hydroxide in pulping, which drastically reduced the emissions of sulphur.

In 1975, a Swedish company was engaged to design a gas and condensed output treatment unit. This was followed in 1979 by the implementation of a residual recovery system. Competence was being built and a critical mass of human resources and knowledge was accumulating in the firm during this period. Later, this pool of competence became the basis for developing pulp and paper technology throughout Brazil.

The company also learned how to interact with the relevant stakeholders and find consensus on directions for the future. The firm's management gradually developed an environmentally responsible posture, based on the adoption of cleaner technologies and a growing technological decision-making capacity derived from its investment in research and development. Riocell appears to have found that investment in environmental control can lead to greater efficiency and positive economic returns.

Educational activities

In this case, there has been no special effort to provide basic education on the interaction between economy, environment, and technology change. The press, however, played an important role in raising the awareness of the relevant stakeholders on environmental matters, even at a time when there were limitations on freedom of expression in the country.

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