Cleaner Production and Waste Minimization in a Yarn Manufacturing Plant Australia 1992 Full scale



Australian Country Spinners Pty Ltd (ACS) is one of the largest yarn manufacturers in Australia. The company is located at Wangaratta in rural Victoria. It produces approximately 2,500 tons of finished yarn annually. The products are exported to New Zealand, Japan, USA and Korea. The company's manufacturing focus is principally directed towards fine quality wools, but other fibres are also processed.

ACS was one of three companies that discharged trade waste to the local wastewater treatment plant. The quantity of effluent being discharged by the three companies was greater than the design capacity of the treatment plant. Consequently, the water authority requested that contributors undertake waste audits. This provided the initial imperative for ACS to investigate cleaner production opportunities. After further discussion with the Victorian Environment Protection Authority (EPA), the company decided that it needed to focus upon the opportunities provided by cleaner production and waste minimization in order to improve its environmental and cost performance.

Cleaner Production Principle:

Material substitution; Process modification; Recovery, reuse and recycling; New technology

Cleaner Production Application:

The wool dyeing industry uses a large quantity of water. Before implementing cleaner production program about one million liters of water was used daily by ACS. Each kilogram of finished yarn required 250 liters of water and three kilograms of chemicals.

Twenty different in-plant waste streams contributed to total effluent outfall from the ACS site, however, over half of the wastewater stream was generated from fiber rinsing operations. The effluent characteristics of greatest significance were total dissolved solids (TDS), biological oxygen demand (BOD), chemical oxygen demand (COD), color and toxicity. This effluent was discharged to the local waterway after treatment at a common treatment plant.

ACS commenced their cleaner production program in 1992 with a waste audit and preparation of a waste management plan (WMP). The audit measured all the waste streams, established mass balances across processes, identified potential areas for change and improvement and also opportunities for reductions in effluent volume. The findings from the audit provided the input for the development of the WMP. ACS established a team that was empowered to make changes to site operations and processes in order to implement the WMP objectives and cleaner production initiatives. Support was provided by top management for the involvement of the total workforce, including the provision of regular briefings to employees on cleaner production changes.

The company identified that approximately 90 percent of its effluent was relatively clean. By segregating the waste streams, ACS was able to recycle the clean wastewater streams within the plant. ACS was also able to halve the use of sulphur based products, introduced alternative surfactants and set realistic targets for levels of TDS, BOD, COD, color and toxicity. 

ACS also introduced low temperature dyeing technology and carried out research and development work in dye bath recycling at the pilot plant stage. The research and development work was carried out in conjunction with the CSIRO Division of Polymers and Chemistry.

ACS has identified more than 50 individual improvement steps through the implementation of its environmental action plan and maintaining a focus on the sequence of waste reduction, recycling and reuse. This has involved the following:

elimination of several waste streams;
reduction in the largest process stream;
removal of a range of chemical inputs from the process; and
recycling of some water streams.

The implementation of these cleaner production initiatives was based on a team oriented approach that was supported by senior management, and involved personnel from senior management through to the shop floor. The program also involved close cooperation with EPA.

The company recognizes the importance of quality aspect of its operations. It is currently applying for ISO 9002 accreditation and is implementing an environmental management system to ISO 14000 in order to achieve continuous improvement in its environmental performance.

Environmental and Economic Benefits:

The result of cleaner production measures was that annual chemical and dye costs per kilogram of product did not change between 1992 and 1996, even though the company introduced some higher cost dyes. The company also absorbed some increases in raw material costs. Additionally, water usage has been reduced from 250 liters per kilogram of yarn to 130 liters.

The improvements have delivered significant cost savings to the company, especially through reduced trade waste charges. In addition, the contribution of these initiatives to the maintenance or improvement of product quality was a significant benefit.

Over a three year period, where dye house production increased by almost 60 percent, the following efficiency improvements were achieved.

Parameter, per kg of product

Efficiency Improvement Achieved (%)

Water Usage


Chemical Usage


Gas Consumption


Power Consumption


Total cost



$1,100,000 over three years


2 Months


The main barrier faced by ACS related to the development of new dyeing technology. ACS does not have its own research and development capability and is therefore reliant on cooperative programs with organisations such as the CSIRO for the development of new dyeing technology that will deliver production and environmental efficiency gains.


Mr John West,
Technical Manager
Australian Country Spinners Pty Ltd
Textile Avenue
Wangaratta, Victoria, 3677
Tel: +61 57 21 2111; Fax: +61 57 21 9523
Environment Australia
Environment Protection Group
PO Box E305
Kingston ACT 2604

Review Status:

This case study was taken from The Cleaner Production Case Studies Directory EnviroNET Australia (see address above). It was edited for the ICPIC diskette in November 1998. It has not undergone a formal technical review by UNEP IE.

Subsequently, in March 1999 the case study underwent a technical review by Dr. Prasad Modak, Environmental Management Centre, Mumbai, India.