Why Practice Pollution Prevention?
Pollution prevention is a business strategy that can benefit any company, regardless of size or type, along with the communities in which they operate. P2 is about increasing operational efficiencies, reducing risk, and effectively meeting environmental responsibilities. Unlike most pollution control strategies, P2 offers important environmental, social, regulatory, and economic benefits that can often result in a more competitive business. A facility that commits to an effective, ongoing P2 program that is dedicated to source reduction efforts and reuse practices can benefit the planet, people, and company profits.
Practicing pollution prevention promotes innovation in the fields of waste minimization and resource conservation to more effectively ensure a clean and sustainable environment. Successful P2 efforts result in positive environmental impacts that are beneficial immediately and in the long run.
- Conserved landfill space / disposal capacity: Landfill space is finite and keeping valuable materials out of costly landfills maximizes the use of both. Landfills are also a source of significant environmental damage, including air (methane gas production), soil, and ground water pollution. These contaminants can cause harm to humans, animals, and plant life. By reducing the use of hazardous materials and the generation of waste, disposal capacity is conserved in existing landfills, extending their lifespans and reducing the need for new ones. By maximizing the size of the region served by a disposal facility, more people are available to pay for the facility operating costs, which can directly decrease the costs per person. Additionally, fuel and labor costs decrease because waste haulers can service more accounts before tipping and make fewer round trips on roadways.
- Conserved energy: Energy generation processes often require the use of limited natural resources and create a variety of wastes that end up in the air, land, and water. By reducing energy use through P2 efforts, businesses help to minimize the negative environmental impacts of energy generation and the consumption of valuable resources.
- Conserved natural resources: Reducing production wastes provides upstream benefits because it reduces ecological damage due to raw material extraction and refining operations. The conservation and wise use of an assortment of limited natural resources supports sustainability and helps ensure that the needs of future generations can be met.
- Decreased pollution: In general, reducing raw material use and the generation of process wastes decreases the potential for environmental pollution from spills, transport, disposal, resource extraction, and conversion processes. P2 allows for the greatest and quickest improvements in environmental protection.
A facility that commits to an effective P2 policy can positively impact workers, consumers, neighbors, and community residents in a variety of ways and help ensure the quality of life for all people.
- Improved health, safety, and operational conditions for workers: Chemicals used in the workplace have resulted in serious health impacts on workers within companies, persons associated with the chemical manufacturing upstream, and those responsible for the handling, disposal, transport, cleanup, and remediation of hazardous wastes downstream. Workers often experience negative health impacts ranging from skin rashes and headaches to cancer, organ damage, and death. These and other health effects can be immediate or experienced decades after exposure to certain chemicals. For some of the most toxic of these chemicals and wastes, the only adequate protection is a transition to safer alternatives. By reducing the use and disposal of hazardous materials, a business effectively reduces future liabilities related to health problems. Businesses may also experience lower worker compensation rates, lower health care payments, and reduced Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulatory oversight. Additionally, businesses can reduce monetary losses related to employee illness, associated productivity decreases, and missed workdays.
- Improved employee morale: Implementing a P2 program at a business can directly improve the morale of employees at all levels because it sends a message of concern for the well-being of people and the planet. Many employees take pride in working for a socially and environmentally responsible company. Environmental stewardship and commitment to the long-term health of employees has proven to be a powerful talent retention tool, minimizing personnel turnover rates, and maintaining institutional knowledge.
- Improved productivity and innovation: P2 programs and the P2 process enhance employee awareness of business operations, stimulate employee enthusiasm and involvement, and improve staff productivity. Many small and large innovations have been the result of P2 efforts that encourage team building, brainstorming, and employee empowerment.
- Receive and give recognition: It is rewarding to have a company and management team recognized in the news because of proactive P2 efforts. It provides free marketing and instills pride in the workforce. P2 programs may be eligible for one of the Indiana Partnerships and Recognition Programs, P2 or toxics reduction grants, or recognition programs at the federal, state or local levels. Earning and displaying these awards will establish a precedent and serve as a constant reminder of the company values. By also offering awards and incentives to staff for P2 involvement, project development or implementation, a company can spur continuous improvement in environmental stewardship among employees.
- Reduced risk to consumers: Sometimes, a toxic substance such as lead or mercury is used in a product in a way that can directly harm people, particularly sensitive populations like infants and young children. P2 strategies can reduce the potential transfer of hazardous materials to consumers. Keeping customers safe and enjoying the products of a business are crucial elements of maintained success.
- Improved public relations, enhanced public image, and new market-based potentials: Trends show customer preference for environmentally friendly or “green” products and environmentally responsible companies that avoid excessive consumption of resources and discharge of waste materials. A commitment to P2 can enhance a company's image, which is often directly linked to market acceptance of its products. If a company has previously had negative publicity related to environmental issues, P2 involvement can bolster a business’s environmental reputation and ensure consumer retention. Citizen consumers are not the only ones partial to environmentally benign products. Many institutions and manufacturers are also interested in “greening” their supply chains. By meeting the demand for “green” production, a business can reach new market bases, increase sales, and enable more consumers to enjoy the use of their products.
- Improved public health: Process changes resulting from the implementation of a P2 program can help a business reduce permitted and fugitive emissions, or accidental releases or spills. Reduced emissions positively impact the quality of the local community’s air, water, and land resources, making surrounding areas safer and healthier places to live, work, and play. A cleaner environment can reduce the adverse health impacts to local populations from illnesses, diseases, and cancer risk associated with pollution exposure. U.S. EPA considers pollution prevention to be an equivalent form of disease prevention.
- Supported economic development potential: Everyone wants to live next to a good neighbor. Businesses are no exception. By proactively protecting the local community’s quality of air, water, and land resources through P2 practices, a community can become more desirable to prospective businesses and new development. Preventing waste generation reduces the need for a community to allocate resources for waste handling, and preserves the integrity and capacity of local waste management facilities. Decreased degradation of existing infrastructure helps ensure its longevity and ability to provide services for all members of the community. Implementation of P2 practices can also help communities avoid the negative attention of the media and decreased land values related to toxic spills, site contamination, and federal or state enforcement issues.
- Improved societal and cultural development: The local community, environmental regulators, environmental organizations, and other businesses see P2 practices as an indication of a company’s willingness to be a responsible corporate citizen and go beyond compliance. This perception by external groups gives credibility to environmental programs and promotes similar actions by others. When businesses allow communities to have more than an indirect influence on industry's production through participation in the P2 development process, P2 activities can lead to significant reductions in local pollution exposures, cooperative community development, and economic sustainability for the area. It is important for businesses to be established as community leaders, operate as environmental stewards, and offer community inclusion. Doing so sends a powerful message of social responsibility that fuels societal and cultural development related to environmental awareness and protection.
One of the greatest benefits of implementing P2 strategies at a business is the associated financial gains. The practice of P2 can directly save businesses money by reducing potential regulatory permit delays, labor costs from cradle-to-grave material handling, liability costs, and raw material usage. P2 also offers potential monetary gains through new market development and production improvements.
- Improved regulatory compliance and reduced regulation: It costs time and money to be regulated. There are expenses related to permitting and compliance, including permitting fees; required emission control technologies; emission rate fees ($/ton rates); staff time related to permit applications, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements; and potential fines for noncompliance. If the wastes a business aims to reduce or eliminate through P2 are regulated under state or federal laws and the reductions are significant enough, costly permits and government approvals can potentially be avoided. At the very least, P2 efforts can minimize regulatory compliance issues and the liability costs associated with regulated waste management including permitted emissions. The adoption of P2 procedures, work instructions, and additional training will add consistency and stability to environmental programs, lead to improved control of potential environmental impacts, and help a business anticipate and control upsets. Pollution prevention also provides an opportunity to act cautiously with imperfect information, scientific uncertainty, and high risk. As science progresses, the stringency of environmental regulations continues to increase for contaminant discharges into all environmental media. P2 projects have the ability to position a company to meet or surpass projected future usage and discharge limits resulting from unknown factors such as purchase prices, disposal costs, or new health issues that accompany the use of substances known to be environmentally damaging.
- Reduced waste generation, storage, treatment, and disposal costs: Every business generates waste that is costly to manage at any stage in the process. The costs associated with the following areas are escalating:
- Handling – both in-house and external custodial and collection services
- Storage – vessel cost, maintenance, labeling, and secondary containment for safety and spill prevention
- Transport – waste loading/unloading and hauling
- Treatment – additional control equipment to meet regulatory requirements
- Disposal of excess or spent materials
- Reduced present and future liability costs: The financial liability from using and disposing of hazardous substances is potentially unlimited, and can be associated with civil actions, tort suits, real property damage, fines, and many other costs related to accidental releases or exposures during handling, storage, transportation, and disposal processes. By reducing the use and disposal of toxic or hazardous wastes through P2, some facilities have been given lower liability insurance rates and lower loan rates. These lower rates are the result of reduced legal liability concerns, decreased likelihood of catastrophic occurrences, and reduced exposure risk to workers, communities, and the environment.
- Reduced raw material consumption / material costs: Gone are the days when resources were inexpensive and energy costs were low. As the demand for resources increases and supplies remain limited, operating costs for businesses rise. Conservation is one of the most lucrative investments a company can make. By using P2 to reduce raw material and resource use (e.g., energy and water), a company can experience immediate and long-term savings. Even when utilizing renewable resources (e.g., solar or wind power), a company should strive for efficiency through conservation, as prevention is less costly than renewables. Additionally, by improving inventory control through P2 practices, businesses can avoid material costs related to overbuying, spoilage or expiration, and necessary storage or transfer. Further, material reuse and interchangeability can be optimized through P2 efforts, which can result in significant savings through reduced purchasing costs.
- Improved process efficiency, expanded production, and improved company profits: Companies can gain a competitive advantage and revenues by implementing P2 process or operational improvements. P2 efforts result in efficient use of resources, optimized production methods or processes, and reduced waste generation. Some businesses have been able to expand production without additional regulation because of material substitutions, in-process recycling, or better material application methods. Many P2 efforts have resulted in reduced downtime, reduced rework or operational losses, and improved product quality. Often, these changes lead to increased sales and company profits.
- Expanded markets: It is common for P2 efforts to result in new market development for businesses. Sometimes, previously untapped markets are opened for a company as a result of new or modified product development from P2 process changes, new sales or uses of byproducts or recovered products through material exchanges or sales of recyclables, or by reaching new consumers that value “green” production. Market shares that were previously lost can be regained and those left unexplored can become a viable source of new sales.