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Environmental Tips to Minimize Waste

Almost every business generates some form of waste. The proper handling and disposal of waste can be expensive. However, the improper management of waste can lead to even more expensive costs for  contamination assessments, remediation, penalties or fines, potential lawsuits, and decreased property value.

Businesses make efforts each day to be more profitable by keeping down labor costs, raw materials costs, equipment costs, and other operational costs. The costs associated with the proper handling and disposal of wastes should be no different. The first step to implementing an effective waste management program at a business is being able to identify what the costs are.

Waste comes in many forms

Take a look around your facility. In general, anything that does not leave your facility as a product or service is probably a waste. Can you identify all of the different forms of waste that may be generated by your facility? The acronym below may help find some of them:

Water and wastewater
Air emissions
Solid waste or (liquid) hazardous wastes

Knowing what types of waste are generated will help you determine what the associated costs are. Some attentive facilities may have a pretty good idea of how much they spend to ship out a drum of waste oil or hazardous waste/materials, but the costs associated with waste are really much greater. Other costs can include:

  • raw materials that are used inefficiently (e.g. most spray painting operations have transfer efficiencies of less than 50%. Less than half the paint they buy actually leaves the facility on the product.)
  • raw materials and work time that end up as scrap or rejects
  • utilities such as water and sewer, natural gas and electricity
  • floor space that must be designated for special storage areas
  • pollution control equipment used to collect and treat wastes
  • sampling, laboratory analysis and other monitoring expenses
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and training for staff members
  • permit forms, manifests, and other documentation

Benefits of waste minimization

By eliminating pollution at its source, pollution prevention:

  • helps protect the public health and the environment by reducing the health risks associated with the release of pollutants to the environment
  • avoids shifts of pollutants from one medium (air, water or land) to another
  • protects natural resources for future generations by cutting wastes and conserving resources
  • benefits the businesses that implement the pollution prevention practices by reducing operating costs, reducing risk-and liability and by improving the company's image

What is pollution prevention?

Pollution prevention is the act of using materials, processes, or practices that reduce or eliminate the creation of pollutants or waste at the source. Traditionally, most environmental protection has involved controlling, treating or cleaning up pollution that, in many cases, we continue to create. Pollution prevention aims at avoiding the production of waste in the first place. It includes practices that reduce the use of hazardous and non-hazardous materials, energy, water, or other resources as well as those that protect natural resources through conservation or more efficient use.

The Environmental Protection Agency has established an environmental management hierarchy that includes:

  • elimination or prevention of wastes at the source, then
  • recycling, then
  • treatment, and then
  • proper disposal or release 

Therefore your first choice for good waste management is always prevention. Once all of the prevention options have been exhausted, then we can turn to recycling, then treatment, and finally disposal. Or put another way, reduce first, then reuse and recycle . Pollution prevention should not be confused with pollution control. Pollution control includes activities that deal with the proper handling and disposal of waste after they have been generated. Pollution prevention is usually equivalent to "source reduction" or "waste minimization."

Implementing pollution prevention in your business

Miami-Dade County is urging every business to reduce waste by starting a pollution prevention program. Here are some things to consider when setting up your program:

  • Make a commitment to pollution prevention. This commitment should start at the top, with the owner or manager of your business, and should extend to every employee.
  • Employee participation. Your employees must be aware of the importance of waste reduction through pollution prevention practices. Their participation and suggestions in your waste reduction program will determine if it is a success.
  • Evaluate your business' waste. Look around your shop to see how much and what kind of waste is being produced. This will make it easier for you to spot areas where pollution prevention tips can be applied.

There are a myriad of ways to make Pollution Prevention possible. Most businesses can instill basic programs that will reduce the amount of waste that they produce. This means having fewer disposal fees, and therefore  saving money and polluting less.
General options for implementing Pollution Prevention are:

  • material substitution (e.g. switch from a solvent-based to water-based paint or stain;  technology is constantly improving and chemical suppliers have many new products that are environmentally-friendly and high-quality)
  • equipment modernization (e.g. upgrade from a conventional spray paint gun to a new High Volume Low Pressure gun. This technology has improved over the years and is now even being used for some vehicle finishes.) Technology from 5 years ago has gotten better.
  • process modification
  • employee training, retraining, and incentive programs
  • reuse & recycling (e.g. distilling solvents on-site for reuse or collecting scrap metal that will be recycled off-site.)  One business' "trash" can be another's raw material.)
  • basic maintenance and housekeeping (e.g. fix that leaky pipe today and set up program to check it periodically; get a drip pan under that leaky car if it can't be fixed right now.)
  • proper inventory management (e.g. purchasing in quantities that you can use before they expire and using first-in first-out procedures-expired materials are expensive.)

Many pollution prevention practices are low-cost and low-risk alternatives to hazardous waste disposal. Most of the approaches do not require sophisticated technology, and your business may already be using pollution prevention practices without realizing it. But never stop looking for ways to save money for your business and save our environment at the same time!

Back to Top Page Last Edited: Wed Jun 5, 2013 4:30:40 PM

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