Five Ways To Reduce Waste in Commercial Buildings

By Jeffery C. Camplin  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Determine a Hierarchy for Managing Hazardous MaterialsPt. 2: Why Develop a Green Purchasing Plan?Pt. 3: This PagePt. 4: Compliance Considerations for Managing Hazardous Materials

Many organizations have begun to realize reducing waste and pollution at the point of generation — before it goes into the trash, down the sewer, out the stack, or away with the hauler — makes a great deal of sense. Simply put, if organizations do not generate waste or pollution, they do not have to track it, permit it, pay for costly treatment or disposal, or insure against the risks associated with the materials.

Studies have found that embracing three hazardous materials principles listed by the EPA — reducing waste generation, preventing exposure to hazardous chemicals by humans and the environment, and managing wastes and cleaning up chemical releases in a safe, environmentally sound manner — can reduce an organization’s waste disposal by 50-90 percent.

More specifically, facilities that generate hazardous materials can minimize waste by:

• setting explicit goals for reducing the volume and toxicity of waste

• conducting periodic assessments aimed at minimizing waste

• substituting non-hazardous materials in place of hazardous substances

• redesigning equipment to produce less waste

• installing systems that reuse waste materials.

Managers will find they can reduce many expensive wastes categorized as hazardous or special by making sure employees handle non-hazardous or non-special wastes properly. Too often, facilities do not segregate wastes properly, resulting in excessive amounts of special and hazardous wastes.

Health care facilities and other organizations that generate bio-hazardous wastes can reduce this specific stream significantly by properly defining materials they should or should not dispose of.

Also, new federal and state regulations downgrade disposal requirements for e-wastes, mercury-containing products, batteries, and lamps.

Fine-Tuning the Approach

Managers can take additional steps to ensure the success of sustainability efforts related to hazardous materials:

• Using computer systems to help manage chemicals and wastes while making suggestions on EPP. Managers can review the free electronic resources on the EPA Web site, www.epa.gov.

• Demonstrating a sustainability program helps the organization achieve its goals. The EPA has several calculators designed to help quantify the projected environmental benefits of using green cleaning supplies, chemicals, and recycling. These also are available on the EPA’s Web site.

• Promoting green initiatives with labels and signs. Regulations often mandate their use, but managers also can consider signs and labels that promote the use of environmentally responsible or non-toxic chemicals. The signs and labeling ensure regulatory compliance and demonstrate a commitment to green initiatives.

Managers must show the value-add they bring to the organization. Promoting green initiatives is an area where managers can display their positive effect on the organization by protecting people, reducing pollution, and impacting the bottom line.

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  posted on 2/1/2009   Article Use Policy

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