Pickle juice proves to be a sweet solution at the DuPont site in Fayetteville, N.C. The solution is reducing costs thanks to creative thinking and partnerships with local vendors.
According to Karen Wrigley, plant manager -Fayetteville Works, the facility uses pickle juice as a substitute for sodium acetate. “To be precise, a by-product from the nearby pickle producer supplements our waste treatment plant biomass during slow production periods. That ‘juice’ is reducing our variable costs by around $68,000 a year.”
How did this come about? The site's waste treatment facilities needed supplemental feeding of sodium acetate to the biomass to ensure its availability for sudden increases in process waste generation. To avoid additional costs, site leaders began exploring options.
That’s when Steve Thomas, the site’s Nalco representative, suggested pickle juice -- a mixture of acetic acid C2H4O2 (vinegar), salts (sodium chloride NaCl, calcium chloride CaCl2) and sugars -- from the nearby Mt. Olive Pickle Company. Tests determined the juice would work.
“This is a great example of partnering with a vendor to create a win-win solution for us and a neighboring company,” says Wrigley. “Mt. Olive was able to eliminate disposal costs by shipping the juice to us, and we don’t have to pay for it. The only cost to the site was for minor modifications to the feed system and shipping.”
“Our waste treatment team was willing to think creatively to solve a problem,” says team member Marlene Page.
Another way DuPont fosters creativity is to encourage children to pursue chemistry as a profession.
DuPont is working with the Delaware Department of Education to launch a new chemistry curriculum for high schools next fall. A recent workshop called “A Natural Approach to Chemistry” introduced the curriculum to 60 high school chemistry teachers.
“Chemistry, which is integral to the evolution of DuPont, is used to explain how the natural world builds and renews itself,” says George Lahm, DuPont Fellow. “We must learn through chemistry how to protect the natural world. This new curriculum will stimulate interest in chemistry and encourage students to study it further.”
A Natural Approach to Chemistry uses the “Five-E” learning model (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate). Concepts progress from hands-on observation in the lab (engage, explore), to conceptual understanding of what happened (explain, elaborate) and, finally, to rigorous quantitative analysis (evaluate).
This approach is said to teach problem-solving and critical-thinking skills more effectively than the “theory-followed-by-verification” model used traditionally. The labs rely on a hands-on, guided-inquiry approach to build student understanding. Examples throughout the course emphasize the importance of chemistry in the human body, the environment and in the laboratory.