WHAT IS POLLUTION PREVENTION (P2)?
Before we define Pollution Prevention (P2), let's start with pollution. Pollution is waste, or the contamination of air, soil, or water by the discharge of harmful substances.
Very simply, P2 reduces waste.
A more technical definition for P2 is the reduction or elimination of pollution at the source (source reduction) instead of at the end-of-the-pipe or stack. Pollution prevention occurs when raw materials, water, energy and other resources are utilized more efficiently, when less harmful substances are substituted for hazardous ones, and when toxic substances are eliminated from the production process. By reducing the use and production of hazardous substances, and by operating more efficiently we protect human health, strengthen our economic well-being, and preserve the environment.
All businesses, individuals or families create waste. Everyone knows that waste is bad. First you pay for your raw materials, then you have to pay again to dispose of your wastes. For example, when you brush your teeth, you pay for the water to wet the toothbrush. The waste you create is the water that goes down the drain. You pay for that too. An easy way to prevent pollution when you brush your teeth is to turn the water faucet off after wetting the toothbrush and while brushing.
Pollution prevention is a comprehensive multimedia approach to environmental management.
Pollution prevention is simple in concept: the best way to manage pollution is to utilize raw materials and manufacturing technologies which minimize emissions, discharges and wastes. It means curtailing pollution before it happens. The Broward County Environmental Protection Department believes that this philosophy is the key element for successful implementation of any environmental management program.
Pollution prevention through waste minimization is the preferred approach because it can reduce the expense of waste(s) management, minimizes potential future liabilities and provides greater protection of public health and the environment.
Waste minimization can be defined as a combination of source reduction and recycling. Source reduction employs methods that eliminate or minimize the amount of waste(s) generated either through manufacturing and process modifications or raw material substitutions. For the wastes generated after all possible source reduction methods have been applied, recycling and reuse options are considered to prevent the waste stream from entering the environment.
Once all source reduction and recycling options have been exhausted, various treatment processes and technologies may be employed to reduce or remove levels of pollutants/waste(s) to acceptable levels prior to disposal and/or discharge to environment.
WASTE MINIMIZATION: Waste minimization methods are divided into two primary categories: source reduction and recycling (on- and off-site).
SOURCE REDUCTION: Source Reduction is the preferred option and is defined as any activity that prevents or reduces the generation of waste(s). It does not mean reducing the volume or toxicity of an already generated waste.
RECYCLING: The use (directly use waste(s) in a different process), reuse (directly reuse waste in the same process), or reclamation (recover or regenerate a component for reuse) of waste materials constitutes recycling. It is the secondary option in the management hierarchy because the wastes have already been generated, thus representing some hazard to the environment if mismanaged.
MANAGEMENT INITIATIVES: A successful waste minimization program must have complete management support in order to achieve the ultimate goal of eliminating or minimizing wastes. This commitment must be demonstrated by management and be passed on to employees working in areas that generate wastes. Employees are one of the best resources for waste minimization ideas and should be considered as active participants in the program. Management approaches include:
Declaring the waste minimization commitment and goals to employees in writing.
Committing resources to implement changes that will eliminate or minimize wastes.
Establishing employee incentive programs such as honorary or monetary awards to encourage employees to develop and implement waste minimization options.
Providing employee training in waste minimization, hazardous waste and hazardous material handling, and emergency response.
Establishing a task force or committee to review or identify waste minimization opportunities.
IMPROVED OPERATING PRACTICES: Also known as "good housekeeping practices", improved operating practices are among the least costly and easiest methods to minimize waste(s). When hazardous materials are spilled, mixed with wastes, or become too old to be used, they are considered hazardous wastes. Such wastes can be minimized through:
Careful control of inventory to avoid overstocking by employing a stockroom attendant and using a "first-in, first-out" materials policy.
Segregating different types of waste to promote recycling and avoid contaminating non-hazardous wastes.
Preventing spills and leaks by keeping containers covered, inspecting them regularly and using pumps or spigots to dispense materials.
WASTE ASSESSMENTS: Sometimes called a waste audit, a waste assessment is an essential component of a waste minimization program. A waste assessment can also be used for planning and allocating resources, and it can be used to measure waste minimization progress. A waste assessment should at a minimum:
- Identify the types and amounts of waste(s) generated by the various processes.
- Identify the major material losses and their causes.
- Identify and evaluate potential waste minimization methods.
- Itemize current waste management expenditures and estimate the costs of alternative waste minimization practices.
MATERIAL SUBSTITUTION: Often a company can minimize wastes or avoid waste generation altogether by using alternative or substitute materials which are non-hazardous to produce products or provide services.
PRODUCT SUBSTITUTION: In some cases, companies have become so motivated to minimize hazardous wastes that they have actually eliminated products which result in the generation and handling of wastes.
TECHNOLOGY AND PROCESS MODIFICATION: Inefficient or high volume waste generating processes can be upgraded or replaced by more efficient processes which minimize the waste(s) generated.