Pollution Prevention for Industry

  • Evaluate company policy and culture. Incorporate goals, controls and policy/culture changes to empower and enable source reduction. Remember that change isn't always easy - so be aggressive and help to justify changes with cost savings potential and reasons that provide wins for everyone involved.
  • Characterize and document waste streams, including process wastes, hazardous wastes, non-hazardous wastes, solid wastes, and wasted energy or water. Examine energy and water consumption and look for high and low usage trends in your water and electric bills. Consider costs of each material stream, including the cost to purchase, dispose of, treat, or control it. Several tools are available for conducting waste assessments. Process mapping can serve as a useful tool. Simulation and other systems related/industrial engineering tools may also be helpful.
  • Set measurable goals. For example, reduce waste hauling and disposal costs by $5,000 annually, or reduce water consumption and process water effluent by 10%. Dow Chemical has a publicly available goal program from which you can glean some good ideas. Also, some environmental award programs and voluntary programs have ready-made goals you can evaluate.
  • Identify the opportunities. The following list of general P2 opportunities was presented in the section of this hub, along with some checklists of typical options available to businesses. Product Modifications:
    • Material Substitution replaces hazardous substances with less toxic alternatives.
    • Product and Packaging Redesign uses fewer parts or less material.

    Process Modifications:

    • Efficiency Improvements allow one to perform the same task with less energy or materials by designing new or modifying existing systems.
    • Equipment Modification or Replacement allows more efficient, newer technologies to replace costlier, older equipment.
    • Layout Modification or Redesign improves materials management and work methods.

    Good Operating Practices:

    • Inventory Control improves quality of input and reduces spoilage.
    • Supply Chain Management reduces waste coming into an enterprise.
    • Preventive Maintenance finds and reduces leaks and spills while prolonging equipment life.
    • Improved Housekeeping reduces opportunities of accidents and increases likelihood of finding spills.
    • Employee Training raises awareness and reinforces optimum practices.
    • Material Segregation reduces cross-contamination of resources.
    • Facility Management provides savings in energy and water use.

    The specific individual opportunities from which to choose within this broader framework are far too numerous to fit within the scope of this topic hub. But several resources do exist to help you research pollution prevention measures that are available, what your peers are doing, and to help you generate new and creative ideas to avoid wastes. These resources exist to provide a collective memory of the P2 wheel that has already been invented. Utilize any and all resources and technical assistance available:

    • Check the Where to Go for Help section of this hub to find P2 Specialists that can help you with your unique issues. You should also look at the other P2Rx topic hubs to find one that has a set of answers for your particular issue.
    • Look to internal resources. Involve staff, especially cross-functional teams, in the generation of P2 opportunities and alternatives. Those who work closely with the processes, equipment and materials often have some great ideas they would enjoy sharing.
    • Ask your peers. Network with similar businesses and agencies to share and learn P2 opportunities. Join listservs and ask your questions there.

  • Prioritize waste prevention opportunities by considering cost, ease of implementation, payback (and cost savings or cost avoidance), and other criteria deemed important by the organization, such as increased employee safety.
  • Go! Start off small and easy and cheap - target one or two materials or pollution sources for reduction. Focus first on projects that require minimal capital investment and/or reduce large volumes of waste. Small successes and the resulting cost savings will result in buy-in and a green light for more P2 implementation.
  • Promote P2. Teach and train employees how to prevent waste. Describe your waste prevention policies and goals, and provide training to employees who must change how they handle materials. Encourage employee involvement by asking for new suggestions and offering incentives.
  • Measure Progress and Tout Successes, quantify and track reductions and cost savings in:
    • Volumes of waste produced
    • Hauling/handling/treating/disposing of wastes
    • Energy and water use
    • Raw materials consumed
    • Toxics, emissions and effluents

    Qualitatively, claim the less tangible benefits such as improved public image, improving or expanding production processes, employee morale and safety, etc. Seek an award for your successful efforts from a recognition/award program such as those listed at Greenbiz.com.

  • Reevaluate efforts on a regular basis. Conduct regular assessments to identify additional waste prevention opportunities. As long as you continue to generate waste, there are opportunities to reduce it.

(From P2ric, Pollution Prevention Regional Information Center, p2ric.org)

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