Pollution prevention (P2) is any practice that reduces, eliminates, or prevents pollution at its source. P2 is fundamentally different and more desirable than waste management and pollution control. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) encourages all Indiana’s businesses to implement P2 practices, whenever, and wherever feasible. The following information is a simplified overview of P2 Program development and P2 implementation. For comprehensive P2 materials and training, see IDEM’s Environmental Education for Regulated Entities (E101), Pollution Prevention for Businesses Module.
Why is Pollution Prevention Important for Indiana Businesses?
Pollution prevention reduces both financial costs (waste management and cleanup) and environmental costs (health problems and environmental damage). P2 approaches can be applied to all potential and actual pollution-generating activities in every business sector.
There are significant opportunities for industry to reduce or prevent pollution at the source through cost-effective changes in production, operation, and raw materials use. Such changes offer industry substantial savings in reduced raw material usage, pollution control, regulatory responsibilities, and liability costs as well as help protect the environment and reduce risks to worker health and safety. By consuming and throwing away less, the need to handle, treat, and dispose of waste is reduced. Many consumers value responsible business practices, and become loyal customers to businesses that foster the development of “greener” production processes. The bottom line is that preventing waste will save and possibly make businesses money.
Commonly used methods of P2 include some of the following approaches:
- Implementing water conservation practices by reducing the use of water and chemical inputs to water;
- Implementing energy conservation practices by increasing energy efficiency and decreasing energy use;
- Use of environmentally benign fuel sources;
- Modifying production processes to produce less waste;
- Using non-toxic or less toxic chemicals as cleaners, degreasers and other maintenance chemicals;
- Reusing materials such as drums and pallets rather than disposing of them as waste;
- Implementing in-process recycling;
- Reducing the amount of packaging; and
- Purchasing durable, long-lasting materials.
Many waste prevention and other P2 efforts are inexpensive and simple to implement, often involving only a change in attitude or work procedures. Indiana businesses can make P2 a routine part of daily business, just like worker safety and customer satisfaction. A little time and effort can go a long way toward success.
How Do Businesses Get Started With P2
The hardest part of any new process is getting started. Businesses can follow these four steps to begin the P2 progression:
- Determine what wastes the business generates.
- Examine and characterize all of the waste streams at the business. Determine where the waste comes from, what processes generate it, and how much is being discarded. Include process wastes, hazardous wastes, solid wastes, office waste, and fuel or energy waste, etc. Look in trash cans, dumpsters, determine what is poured down the drain, and examine energy and water consumption.
- Identify waste prevention measures.
- Evaluate all waste streams for possible reduction and determine how the business can reduce each waste.
- Evaluate purchasing policies, packaging practices, and current material reuse. Can any of these areas be modified in a way that further reduces waste?
- Identify potential production changes that would improve efficiency, including process, equipment, piping, and layout changes.
- Investigate opportunities for new products or ingredients that prevent waste generation (and potentially burdensome regulation).
- • Identify resources that will help the business conduct a waste reduction assessment. Trade associations, universities, and equipment vendors might have suggestions to reduce wastes. Indiana’s Compliance and Technical Assistance Program (CTAP), as well as local regulatory agencies and consultants can provide technical assistance in identifying potential waste prevention measures.
- Set priorities and goals for the business.
- Prioritize waste prevention opportunities by considering cost, ease of implementation, payback, and other benefits, such as increased employee safety or reduced regulation.
- Focus on a few opportunities that are easy to implement at first. Start with projects that require low capital investment, save money, and reduce large volumes of waste.
- Set attainable goals that can be measured for achievement. Consider things like reducing office paper waste by 40 percent, or reducing waste hauling and disposal costs by $5,000 annually.
- Get started.
- Describe the businesses waste prevention policies and goals, and teach employees how to prevent waste accordingly. Provide training to employees who must change how they handle materials or modify process methods.
- Promote waste prevention activities. Make sure all personnel are aware of the P2 goals by hosting a kickoff event to describe the changes that will be implemented and highlight the benefits for the business. Use posters, signs, employee profiles, and announcements to get the word out to employees. Place signs about P2 practices in areas where waste prevention activities should happen.
- Encourage employee involvement! This can be accomplished by offering incentives (bonuses, prizes or awards), that can be given out to employees or the departments with the best ideas for P2, or those that result in the most savings.
Is P2 Working for the Business?
To determine whether the P2 efforts employed by a business are successful, the progress must be evaluated, both from an environmental and an economic standpoint. Suggestions for evaluating a business’ waste prevention efforts include:
- Monitor process and waste production changes:
- Track things such as the volume of waste produced, how often it is hauled away, reductions in energy use, and the amount of raw materials used.
- Calculate the savings:
- Look at savings in handling, treating, and disposal costs as well as savings from reduced raw material, water and energy use.
- Count the indirect benefits:
- Try to gauge the value of less obvious benefits such as improved public image, reaching new markets, improving or expanding production processes, employee morale and safety, reduced regulation and other advantages.
- Reevaluate your efforts on a regular basis:
- As new raw materials and processes are introduced, waste streams change. Conduct regular assessments of the business practices to evaluate P2 efforts and identify additional P2 opportunities. As long as a business generates waste, there are opportunities to reduce it and further P2 efforts.
Important P2 Resources
- Online P2 Resources
- A listing of resources and publications to help businesses understand environmental responsibilities, ensure compliance, and exceed compliance through pollution prevention efforts.