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Why Should You Care About Preventing Waste? Small Business Guide

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Why Should You Care

Every business generates waste. For some, it may be only waste paper or dirty water; for others, it may be hazardous or toxic wastes that require special handling and disposal. Whatever the type or volume of waste your company generates, it is all the same in one respect - it is costing you money! In fact, you're paying for it twice - once when you buy it and the second time when you throw it away. The bottom line is that preventing waste will save you money.

How Does Recycling Fit In?

Recycling is the process whereby materials that would have become waste are converted into new materials and products. Many companies realize that it makes both economic and environmental sense to recycle a material rather than dispose of it. However, the recycling process still requires handling, energy use, and reprocessing. The key thing to remember is that the materials you are sending to the recycler represent lost revenues because they are not becoming a part of your product or service.

By consuming and throwing away less, you will reduce the need to handle, treat, and dispose of waste. Waste prevention can take many forms, including:

Many waste prevention efforts, such as two-sided printing and using e-mail in place of printed copies, are inexpensive and simple to implement, often involving only a change in attitude or work procedures.

Waste prevention is a business strategy from which any company, regardless of size or type, can benefit. In addition to cost savings, it can also help you improve worker safety, reduce liability, and enhance your image in the community. Furthermore, if the waste you are eliminating or reducing is regulated under state or federal law - and your reductions are significant enough - you might be able to avoid costly permits and government approvals.

It's the right thing to do!
In addition to these financial advantages, waste prevention is the right thing to do. Preventing waste prevents pollution, making your neighborhood and community a safer, healthier place to live. In the end, you benefit, the environment benefits, the community benefits, and your company establishes itself as a good corporate citizen, providing immeasurable, lasting rewards.

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How Do You Get Started?

You can make waste prevention a routine part of daily business, just like worker safety and customer satisfaction. A little time and effort can go a long way toward success by following these basic steps:

Just getting started?

Keep these suggestions in mind:

1. Determine what wastes you generate.

2. Identify waste prevention measures.

Employee involvement is key!

Frost Paint and Oil in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is a manufacturer of industrial paints and linseed oil-based varnishes. Several years ago, the company reviewed its waste streams, including paint sludge, varnish oil sludge, and process water and established a goal of reducing them by 10 to 15 percent. After evaluating a number of options for reducing waste, the company decided that the quickest and least expensive way to prevent waste was to implement an employee incentive program. The employees, 35 at the time, were motivated by the promise that two-thirds of any resulting savings would be passed on to them. As a result of the employee incentive program, Frost Paint and Oil reached its waste reduction goal in 1 year! The innovative approach reduced hazardous waste by 55 percent and saved the company $25,000. The following year, the incentive program continued to work, further reducing hazardous waste generation by 22 percent.
*Adapted from EPA's EnviroSense Web site

3. Set your priorities and goals.

Benefits for Small Businesses

As easy as changing a light bulb!

Investing in energy-efficient equipment proved to be a smart move for Pearl Pressman Liberty (PPL), a commercial print facility in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. PPL joined EPA's Green Lights program (a daughter program of EPA's Energy Star program) to learn how using efficient lighting could help them cut costs. In just 1 month, PPL completed energy-efficient lighting upgrades that are now producing savings of more than $21,000 a year -the energy reductions from these upgrades are equivalent to removing 28 cars from U.S. highways, or planting 56 acres of trees in US forests!

4. Get started.

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How Do You Know It's Working? - Measuring Your Success

To determine whether your waste prevention efforts are successful, from both an environmental and economic standpoint, you need to evaluate your progress. Suggestions for evaluating your waste prevention efforts include:

Blast Away Paint Without Chemicals

The Gehl Company in West Bend, Wisconsin, modified its paint stripping process and now saves $32,000 a year in waste disposal costs. The company replaced chemical paint strippers with a blasting cabinet that uses small plastic particles to strip paint off parts. This process change also provided employees with a safer and healthier work environment.
Adapted from the Waste Reduction Resource Center Web site Exit EPA Disclaimer

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Waste Prevention Success Stories

Inexpensive Solutions for Reducing Waste -
The Herald Review/Itasca Shopper in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, is a small newspaper and advertising printing operation. By encouraging all departments to efficiently use materials - and by recycling and reusing materials whenever possible - the company realized huge savings by reducing the volume of solid and hazardous waste, landfill disposal fees, and raw materials costs.

Newsprint rollends that were originally thrown away were saved and sold to a local ceramics company as packing material. Waste ink was reused by adding different colors to black inks with no reduction in print quality. The company reused film-developing chemicals and extended its use with additives. The layout department reused page pasteup sheets, and the composing staff reused and refilled toner cartridges three times before buying new cartridges. Overall, the company reduced solid waste by 97 percent and saved 250 pounds of ink per year.

Total savings:

*Adapted from EPA's EnviroSense Small Business Waste Reduction Guide

Conserving Water Pays Off!

Tri-Star Technologies, Inc. specializes in products for the electronics industry, including the manufacture of printed wiring boards. Tri-Star installed flow controls on their rinse processes by increasing counterflow rinsing and implemented other "smart rinsing" techniques on their electroless copper line. By reusing rinse water from one set of counterflow rinse tanks to another, the company reduced their water use by 79 percent. Overall, Tri-Star estimates that "smart rinsing" reduced their water usage by 2.5 million gallons per year, resulting in cost savings of approximately $15,000. Although Tri-Star made these changes on lines specific to their manufacturing process, such water use reduction measures may be applied to other processes that use multiple rinse lines.

*Adapted from the EPA's Design for the Environment Program

Additional Success Stories

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