Waste Minimization Makes Financial and Ecological Sense
In our last two articles — When’s the Last Time You Thought About Waste Management? and Is Your Current Waste Management Program the Best Fit for Your Waste? – we took an in-depth look at waste management programs. This month, we’d like to suggest that you reconsider your waste altogether.
It’s critical to remember that there’s a difference between waste treatment and waste disposal. According to the EPA, waste treatment is “any process that changes the physical, chemical, or biological characteristics of a waste to minimize its threat to the environment.” Waste disposal, on the other hand, is “the placement of waste into or on the land.”*
There’s a third perspective as well. Forward-looking countries and organizations with a global approach often look for front-end waste minimization options instead of back-end waste disposal. Instead of thinking about waste management after they’ve already generated waste – they start managing their waste before it’s even generated. The foundational premise is to minimize waste that has to be disposed of (i.e., placed into or on the land).
Basically, waste minimization comprises three main objectives: reduce, reuse/recycle, and treatment.
Reducing waste encompasses several areas. Do you have leaks in your processes? These would include water leaks, raw product leaks, and the like. Do you purchase materials in the right amounts? Or do you buy more than you need because of a bulk-buying price break? It’s not such a cost savings when you have to dispose of surplus materials. Do you use chemicals that are easier and thus more economical to deal with? Or do you choose materials that are more difficult to discard?
Reusing and recycling go beyond paper, plastic, metals, and glass. In many cases, you can reuse or recycle your industrial waste. Can you reuse any of your own waste products in your manufacturing – for example, blend it back into your new product(s)? When you rinse your storage tanks, can you reuse the rinse water in your processes?
If you can’t use your waste products internally, perhaps another company might be able to use it. That’s known as waste exchange. A quick Google search referencing waste exchange and the waste material you have may put you in touch with an organization that would benefit from using your waste. Or perhaps waste-to-energy (or energy-from-waste) or fuels blending are suitable options. With these methods, waste materials are turned into usable energy for municipalities or fuel for cement and asphalt kilns.
Wastewater treatment is also a form of recycling, since all treated wastewater is eventually released back into the environment. Perhaps you treat your wastewater at your own facility and then release it into the sewer. Or you may use the services of a treatment facility like Environmental Remedies. We recycle more than 95% of wastewater we receive. If you use a treatment facility, check to make sure the facility is recycling water-based wastes through treatment and returning treated water to the water cycle or if they are instead shipping water-based wastes for disposal.
Waste minimization efforts can make a big difference in your waste disposal volume and your impact on the environment. Consider the types of waste your operations generate and find places where you can reduce the waste you dispose. By changing the way you manage your waste, you can reduce costs, improve efficiency, avoid fines, and conserve natural resources. These are all great reasons to evaluate your overall waste management program.
We can help. Call us at 800-399-2783 or visit our website. At Environmental Remedies, all solutions lead to clean.
* Source: Guide for Industrial Waste Management, United States Environmental Protection Agency.