Rethinking Environmental Compliance

09Mar10

Good business decisions result from carefully evaluating the benefits and drawbacks of any given situation. The benefits of complying with regulations that apply to your business are obvious; the drawbacks of noncompliance can be significant regardless of whether its tax rules, local ordinances or environmental regulations.

In addressing environmental responsibilities, a business owner not only reduces liability and but can also realize other business benefits. The goal of most environmental regulations is to control or treat wastes that would otherwise be damaging to people or the environment. A waste represents inefficient use of materials and in addition to this lost value, there may be costs associated with the control or disposal of these wastes.

What if you could change the materials you use or your process; and either significantly reduce your waste stream, end up with a waste that could be used as material in another process, or have a non-regulated waste? You could not only save money but you might also be able to avoid environmental regulations entirely.

Here are some examples from the Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center (www.pprc.org). Alternative materials for cleaning, coating, lubrication and other production processes can provide equivalent results while preventing costly hazardous waste generation, air emissions, and worker health risks. For example, a metal fabricator replaced high-solvent paint for coating products with low-solvent paint. While the replacement paint’s purchase cost was higher, each gallon coated more product. As a result, the company reduced its painting costs per square foot of coated product. The low-solvent paint emits fewer smog-forming volatile organic compounds, enabling the company to avoid the need for a costly air emissions permit.

Rethinking manufacturing processes can turn up ways to reduce production waste, cutting both pollution and costs. For example, an electronic equipment manufacturer found a non-chemical technique to extend by a factor of five the life of a cleaning bath used in circuit board production. As a result, the company has reduced the quantity of chemicals it uses and then discards for the cleaning process. Workers like the change because they don’t have to handle as many hazardous chemicals.   Additionally, the innovation saved 300 person-hours in maintenance labor costs.

Finally, one company’s wastes may be another company’s raw materials. A potato processor markets waste starch to paper producers. Discarded potato peelings are used for cattle feed and pet food production. The peelings also are used to manufacture biodiesel, an alternative vehicle fuel that greatly reduces sulfur, particulate and carbon monoxide emissions.

So rethink how you meet environmental regulations; instead reduce or eliminate waste at the source by modifying production processes, promote the use of non-toxic or less-toxic substances, implement conservation techniques, and re-use materials rather than putting them into the waste stream. Protecting the environment can also benefit your bottom line.

Joan Meitl is the environmental assistance coordinator for the Small Business Development Center in Boise. She can be reached at 1-800-225-3815.

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