Pollution prevention (P2) is a multimedia approach to solve environmental problems—it does not focus on pollution in a single, isolated medium such as air, water, or land. Well-intentioned pollution control and management solutions sometimes remove pollutants from one medium only to transfer them, and their liabilities, to another.
P2 approaches work most effectively when products and manufacturing processes are designed to minimize waste and pollution using green chemistry and design principles. Additionally, existing processes can also often be made more resource and energy-efficient, producing significant savings for manufacturers as well.
Pollution prevention may involve manufacturers taking steps such as product reformulation to eliminate or use less of a toxic chemical, or perhaps replacing a cleaning solvent with a safer alternative. It may also consist of activities like worker training to reduce overspray in coating operations or establishing or improving housekeeping and maintenance schedules to reduce spills and leaks.
Case in point
Phoenix Industries (Crookston, Minn.), a manufacturer of fiber-reinforced plastics, converted 60% of its molded part production to closed molding, which reduced 80,000 pounds of styrene emissions over two years and cut per-part fabrication costs by 10%.
Using a pollution prevention team, Schroeder Milk (St. Paul, Minn.) identified opportunities for process improvement that resulted in savings of $400,000 and 13 million gallons of water annually.
Pollution prevention does not include steps such as installing or upgrading filters or other equipment that capture, treat or otherwise manage wastes but do not prevent their generation during the actual process of manufacturing a product. It also does not include steps to remediate polluted land or water resources.