What is P2?
Pollution prevention (P2) means reducing or eliminating pollution at the source so that it never enters the environment in the first place. P2 is a proactive approach to environmental management. It’s not the same same as pollution control, which is managing pollution at the "end of the pipe" after it has been created.
Pollution prevention has wide-ranging environmental and economic benefits, because it gets at the waste and inefficiencies that are the root causes of pollution. P2’s health and environmental benefits include cleaner air and water, fewer greenhouse gas emissions, less toxic waste to manage, less solid waste going to landfills, greater workplace safety, and better stewardship of natural resources. P2’s economic benefits include greater business efficiency, increased competitiveness, less exposure to risks, and reduced costs for regulatory monitoring, fees and paperwork. If you don’t create pollution, you don’t have to spend money regulating it, handling it, storing it, treating it, or disposing of it.
Making the Business Case for P2
For more information about the economic benefits and many examples of how Northwest businesses have benefitted by preventing pollution, see the brochure P2 Pays.
Pollution prevention can be accomplished by the following methods:
- Design. Products, buildings and manufacturing systems can be made resource-efficient throughout their life cycle by incorporating environmental considerations into their design.
Example: A conference center in eastern Washington was designed, constructed and is operated to reduce its environmental "footprint." Features include a computerized energy management system, efficient lighting and windows, reuse of waste heat for water heating, bathroom flooring made of plant material composites, preservatives-free decking made of recycled plastic bags and wood waste, and native plant landscaping that can get along with reduced irrigation.
- Process Changes. Rethinking manufacturing processes can turn up ways to reduce production waste, cutting both pollution and costs.
Example: An Everett, Washington 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.
- Materials Substitution. 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.
Example: A Seattle metal fabricator replaced a high-solvent paint for coating products with a 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 VOCs, enabling the company to avoid the need for a costly air emissions permit.
- Materials Reuse. One company’s wastes may be another company’s raw materials. Finding markets for them can reduce solid waste, lessen consumption of virgin resources, increase income for the sellers, and provide an economical resource supply for the buyers.
Example: An Idaho 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.
- Resource Efficiency. Using energy, water and other production inputs more efficiently helps keep air and water clean, reduces emissions of greenhouse gases, cuts operating costs, and improves productivity.
Energy Example: A Portland grocery store is saving $65,000 per year in energy costs as a result of upgrading the store’s lighting, refrigeration, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Greater energy efficiency reduces the impacts of electricity generation on air, water, fish and wildlife.
Water Example: An eastern Oregon onion grower experienced a 13 percent increase in yield, 30 percent increase in crop quality, and reduced fertilizer costs as a result of installing a water-efficient drip irrigation system. Reduced water waste lessens consumption pressure on streams, and helps keep them healthy for salmon and other fisheries.
- Improved Work Practices. Rethinking day-to-day operations and maintenance activities can help managers root out wasteful management practices that drive up costs and cause pollution.
Example: Two hospitals and a university in a Portland neighborhood worked out an employees trip reduction plan that alleviated congestion, increased transit and car pool ridership, and reduced commute trips by 3.7 million miles. Gasoline consumption was cut by 174,000 gallons per year, and as a result, carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by 3.4 million pounds annually.
Example: A military facility on Kodiak Island, Alaska stopped changing fleet vehicle oil on a set schedule, and instead changes oil only when an analysis indicates it is necessary. The new practice cut waste oil volume in half and saves the base $11,000 per year.
P2 Topic Hub
For more information and web resources about P2, visit the P2 Topic Hub.