Research Paper: Pollution According to the EPA )

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Pollution

According to the EPA (2011), pollution prevention "is reducing or eliminating waste at the source by modifying production processes, promoting the use of non-toxic or less-toxic substances, implementing conservation techniques, and re-using materials rather than putting them into the waste stream." The 1990 Pollution Prevention Act likewise defines pollution prevention primarily in terms of source reduction. The State of Washington Department of Ecology (n.d.) also defines pollution prevention as "source reduction and other practices that reduce or eliminate the creation of pollutants through increased efficiency in the use of raw materials, energy, water, or other resources, or protecting resources through conservation." Pollution prevention is like preventative medicine for the earth.

Therefore, the key component of a pollution reduction program is the reduction of the amount of hazardous substances or contaminants that are produced as a by-product of industry. As a source-focused program, pollution prevention does not include recycling, cleanup, and other efforts to address waste once it has already been produced. The methods of pollution prevention will vary from industry to industry but can include "equipment or technology modifications, process or procedure modifications, reformulation or redesign of products, substitution of raw materials, and improvements in housekeeping, maintenance, training, or inventory control," (EPA 1990). The EPA (2011) also lists the use of "greener substances" and the conservation of natural resources in the manufacturing process or the delivery of services as part of a pollution prevention program.

Background

There are five industrial sectors identified as core areas of concern and thus targets for pollution prevention. Those five industrial sectors include Chemicals & Manufacturing Industries, Hospitality, Electronics, Building & Construction, and Municipalities & Institutions (EPA 2011). Greenhouse gas emissions reduction and a reduction in the use of hazardous materials are both central to pollution prevention. The EPA's (2011) Strategic Plan addresses issues shared in common by all five of these sectors.

Integral to the concept of pollution prevention is policy and planning programs. Whether through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or state-level organizations, the government plays a key role in creating, implementing, and enforcing pollution prevention programs. Non-governmental and private sector organizations also play an important role in pollution prevention programs.

Fines and other punishments are offered as deterrents to companies while financial and other incentives inspire manufacturers to reduce waste at the source. In many cases, pollution prevention is implemented because of the cost savings it implies. In other words, pollution prevention itself might be a by-product of cost cutting in the manufacturing sector.

This research evaluates pollution prevention programs being implemented in all five of the industrial sectors highlighted by the EPA (2011). The evaluation takes into account incentives and deterrents, both financial and otherwise, which might inspire organizations to undertake a pollution prevention program. The research should illustrate ways pollution prevention and cost effectiveness converge, and also how pollution prevention can be implemented on a global scale without hindering free trade. Furthermore, the meta-analysis of case studies performed will provide an overview of main challenges or hindrances to an effective pollution prevention program and offer corresponding suggestions.

Methods

The methods used to conduct the research include the use of the Google search engine. Using search terms related to pollution prevention, Google yields a plethora of data from government agencies regarding the philosophies and politics behind pollution prevention programs. Without focusing on financial data, the research does take into account which pollution prevention programs have yielded quantifiable results in terms of reducing emissions or toxic waste at the source. Case studies were culled from Google search engine and also from the North Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance database.

Results

Manufacturing: Textile Industry

The textile industry "has the opportunity to make numerous changes in its daily operations that will conserve limited resources, reduce the amount of harmful chemicals being released into open air and water, and impact the well-being of our world in a positive manner," (the National Pollution Prevention Round Table 2011). One of those changes is to reuse the dyebath rather than discard each batch. Dyebath reuse "is an attractive alternative to pretreatment systems for dyehouses that discharge to publicly owned treatment works," (the National Pollution Prevention Round Table 2011). Dyebath reduction is therefore preferable to pretreatment because it "has been shown to reduce flow, BOD, and COD loadings by up to 33%, requires a smaller investment in equipment than pretreatment systems," (the National Pollution Prevention Round Table 2011).

In standard textile production, "most of the chemicals remain in the dyebath and are discarded with it. Reuse saves the cost and pollution associated with discharge of those chemicals in the spent dye liquors, and it also saves the energy required to heat the dyebath up from the fill water temperature to the appropriate starting temperature for the next dyeing," (the National Pollution Prevention Round Table 2011). Therefore, reusing dyebath is an effective pollution prevention measure for different reasons including cost reduction, reduction in energy use, and reduction in the use of toxins and the discharge of chemical waste.

Besides dyebath reuse, textile companies can participate in pollution prevention programs by managing their steam output and ensuring that boilers are running at optimal efficiency levels. As the National Pollution Prevention Round Table (2011) points out, " it is not obvious that adequate provisions can be made to collect and return condensate to the boilers."

Making boilers less wasteful also entails minimizing leaks and maximizing efficiency. The National Pollution Prevention Round Table (2011) notes that pipes and fittings must be insulted properly to prevent steam loss. "A program to repair leaks and install insulation on steam pipes, condensate return pipes and their fittings should be vigorously pursued," (National Pollution Prevention Round Table 2011). According to the National Pollution Prevention Round Table (2011), the boiler "should be tuned at least once a year and the air fuel mixture adjusted periodically to keep the combustion efficiency high above 80%. Boilers should be maintained to remove scale. Scale build-up of about 3.2 mm can cause a 3% loss in boiler efficiency."

Chemical reduction is also part of a pollution prevention program feasible for the fabrics industry. The substitution of more toxic with less toxic ingredients; the reformulation of chemical materials, and modifications in operational procedures are some of the ways the fabrics industry can reduce waste at the sort. The combination of dyebath reuse, steam loss reduction, and reduction in toxic chemical use can contribute to a net gain financially for the organization. "Savings amounts for energy, chemicals, BOD, COD, pH and hydraulic loading of waste streams vary with amounts and types of specialties that are used," (National Pollution Prevention Round Table 2011).

Municipalities & Institutions: Government Organization: The Office of the Lieutenant Governor (Raleigh, N.C.)

Unlike heavy industry, the service sector does not typically produce toxic waste. However, the service industry is a great source of waste and therefore pollution prevention programs are particularly effective in this sector. Simple acts of waste reduction include the use of reusable coffee cups instead of Styrofoam or plastic; double-sided copying; transitioning away from paper memos to email; cutting down on all printing; and the purchase of greener products in every department such as recycled copier and toilet paper. Pollution reduction in the service industry depends largely on purchasing decisions and a commitment to net gains rather than on short-term savings. As the Seymour (2004) notes, indirect services related to the organization are often pollution culprits. Reducing water use, for example, requires an examination of the landscaping services rendered. Energy reduction is integral to the overall pollution prevention plan for the service sector.

Seymour (2004) found that "The most significant savings are due to the adjusting of the heating and air conditioning vents in the building's basement. Further energy savings is due to changes in computer and lighting turnoff practices, as well as the increase in use of desk lamps and windows instead of ceiling lights. Cost-effectiveness was proven in the case of the Office of the Lieutenant Governor of Raleigh, N.C. "In April 2004, the Hawkins-Hartness House spent about $600 on energy. In April 2005, the energy bill was reduced to around $385. This corresponds to a total reduction of almost 35% in energy consumption," (Seymour 2004). The figures were collected during a low energy month, and Seymour (2004) estimates that cost savings would be greater during summer and winter when air conditioning and heat are used.

Food: Miller Brewing Company

The Miller Brewing Company has implemented several creative pollution prevention strategies. The strategies range from changing the types of containers that suppliers use to selling carbon dioxide. For example, the Miller Brewing Company worked with suppliers in a joint program of pollution prevention by switching to reusable totes and cloth bags instead of the disposable paper and plastic bags and pails for grain and hops. The transition required the company to invest in new equipment for lifting and storing the larger-format bulk products. Materials conservation has also helped the Miller Brewing Company reduce pollution at the source.

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