Welcome to the second edition of Waste Not, CIRCON’s newsletter on surprising sustainable solutions to challenging waste streams. Last month, we learned about the power of fishing lures — which might have struck you as odd, considering most of CIRCON’s business revolves around refineries. But this month, I’ve got something equally unexpected to discuss with you: The U.S. Dollar.

In 2019 we started talking to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the part of the government that produces all of our money. When they print bills, they use a proprietary green ink with special attributes like metal flakes which make it unique. This formula is as guarded as the formula for Coca-Cola! The government doesn’t want counterfeiters getting their hands on it — even when it’s being disposed of.

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The problem:
When the government has leftover ink that hasn’t been used, it will eventually spoil so they need to get rid of it, but still protect it. Transporting this ink is its own adventure: It’s loaded onto trucks in 55-gallon drums, locked, and then followed around by a government-sponsored witness to make sure it doesn’t, say, take a left turn and get unloaded someplace. Historically, this ink has been sent for disposal by incineration, producing no sustainable benefit. Recently, the government began looking for alternative, sustainable solutions from a vendor that they could trust.

The challenge:
CIRCON had to deliver two things: security, and sustainability. We knew how to deliver sustainability — we blended that ink down to reduce its viscosity and blended it into our alternative fuels to power cement kilns. By doing that, the ink is rendered non-usable and unappealing to anyone interested in reproducing it because we’ve altered the formula.

As for the security portion, we pushed ourselves one step further.

The solution:
In addition to having the Treasury Department’s witness follow us around and observe us altering this ink, we also video-taped the recycling and repurposing process for them. Now, the department has proof of exactly how this ink was handled, on record, forever.

A few buckets of ink? Don’t kid yourself. Today, CIRCON manages about 80 tons of this ink annually. It delivers a fuel value of about 8,000 BTUs, a nice addition to CIRCON’s fuel-blending programs and a true sustainability win for all of us.

We’re proud to bring this special, protected resource into the circular economy.

Pat Sears
Senior VP, Energy Recovery Group

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