Pollution Prevention (P2) means reducing or eliminating pollution at the source so that it never enters the environment in the first place. Instead of managing pollution after it has been created or at the “end of the pipe,” P2 focuses on first eliminating waste; then if the waste can’t be eliminated, try to find ways to reduce either the amount or toxicity of the waste. If the waste can’t be eliminated or reduced, then try to identify a way to reuse the waste in your process. Lastly, after trying to eliminate, reduce, or reuse the waste, the next option is recycling.
Every company generates waste. For some companies, it may be cardboard or waste paper or using energy, water, and raw materials inefficiently; in other cases it may be hazardous or toxic wastes that require expensive handling and disposal.
Any company, regardless of size or type, can benefit from pollution prevention by:
- Enhancing Your Image in the Community
- Saving Money
- Improving Worker Safety and Company Environmental Liability
- Decreasing Regulatory Obligations
- Using Energy, Raw Materials, and Natural Resources More Efficiently
- Promoting the Development of P2 Technologies
Step 1: Determine what your wastes are, including hazardous wastes, non-hazardous wastes, solid wastes, and office wastes. Take a look at your energy and water consumption and look for high and low usage periods in your bills.
Step 2: Characterize your waste streams by determining where the waste comes from, what processes generate it, and how much is being discarded.
Step 3: Evaluate all or some wastes for possible elimination or reduction using the following pollution prevention methods:
- Good Housekeeping
Rethinking day-to-day operations and maintenance activities to help identify wastes. Inspect and maintain your equipment, repair seals and stop leaks right away. Use tight fitting lids on volatile substances to prevent evaporation. Use spigots and pumps rather than pouring and use drip pans to catch excess materials.
- Manage Your Inventory Wisely
Reduce waste by buying only what you will use, label all containers with contents and date, if necessary, and set up an inventory tracking system.
- Process Changes
Evaluate manufacturing processes to identify ways to reduce production wastes. For example, consider cutting the number of processes, switching from a chemical to a mechanical process, or introducing closed-loop processing.
- Materials Substitution
Work with your suppliers to identify less hazardous or toxic materials for cleaning, coating, and lubricating to prevent costly hazardous waste disposal fees, air emissions, and worker health risks.
- Materials Reuse
Re-use waste in the same process or consider selling the waste to another company as a raw material.
- Resource Efficiency
Using energy, water, and other natural resources more efficiently helps keep our air and water clean and helps reduce operating costs.
Products, building and manufacturing systems can be made resource-efficient throughout their life cycle by incorporating environmental attributes into their design.
- Provide incentives for employees to find new ways to prevent waste and increase efficiency.
- Identify one or two P2 opportunities that are easy to implement, have low capital investment, save you money, and reduce significant amounts of waste.
- Develop a P2 plan, with the support of upper management, to prioritize your P2 efforts.
- Build on your initial successes little by little over a period of time once you gain support and creditability.
Step 5: Provide information on your company’s successes to staff and with your community. Your pollution prevention projects can be an effective marketing opportunity.
Help From DEQ
The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) can provide resources, such as fact sheets, case studies, and on-site visits to Utah companies that are interested in improving their overall environmental performance.