Ohio Pollution Prevention and Waste Minimization Planning Guidance Manual

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Chapter 14
Do Feasibility Analysis

"We have found that up to 65 percent of the waste generated by industrial plants can be prevented at little or no cost to the plant. Most of the recommendations we make to companies have a pay-back period of less than one year."

Charles A. Czarnecki, Waste Advantage

Once suggestions for pollution prevention options are gathered and the costs associated with these options calculated, they should be reviewed by the pollution prevention team and the least beneficial options eliminated from further consideration. These options may be reviewed again at a later time since pollution prevention is a continuous process and what is less beneficial now may work better in the future. The remaining options should then be examined in more detail to determine their overall benefits. Technical, economic and environmental feasibility of each option, based on the company's requirements for these criteria, should be studied. For example, each company has their own standards for economic evaluation, feasibility for implementation, levels of expertise, operational requirements, etc. Those options found to be consistent with the company's goals can then be scheduled for implementation. There may even be cases in which certain benefits of a project override low economic return.

The benefits to be gained by implementing a pollution prevention project should be identified. Along with reduced waste generation (and associated costs), these benefits may include improved worker safety/morale, better community relations, reduced liability, reduced regulatory concerns, and improved relations with regulatory agencies. These benefits may be difficult to quantify but should be emphasized when evaluating options for implementation approval.

Technical Evaluation

There are many factors which should be considered when determining if a project is technically feasible. Table 6 presents some of these factors.

Table 6. Factors to Consider in Determining Feasibility
Process related Company related
Existing technology available
Amount of downtime required
Equipment/procedure compatibility
Utility requirements/availability
Specific training required
Acceptable service from vendor
Ease of implementation
Quality assurance
Pollution prevention goals
Product quality maintained
Customer acceptance of product
Likelihood of success
Creation of other environmental concerns
Reduction of treatment/disposal costs
Payback period
Regulatory compliance costs
New markets for modified products

(adapted from Pollution Prevention: A Guide to Program Implementation, Illinois Hazardous Waste Research and Information Center, 1993)

Personnel that will be directly affected by implementing the project should be consulted and included in the decision-making process. They typically have knowledge of process details that may inhibit the project success and are essential in proper implementation. For projects that involve a new technology or technique, a bench-scale or pilot test may be required to assess the technical feasibility. At this point, if it is determined that an option is not feasible by these criteria, the option should be deferred for consideration at a later time when the circumstances for evaluation may be different. If possible, illustrate effects of an option by modifying flow diagrams of existing processes to show how potential options will improve plant processes.

Economic Evaluation

Once a pollution prevention project has been found to be technically feasible, the economics of the project should be examined. In the previous chapter, the full cost of waste generation and the cost savings for implementing a pollution prevention option were determined. In cases which involve capital and start-up expenditures, the payback period or other economic criteria were calculated. This information is necessary when evaluating the economic feasibility of a project.

Any project that yields a cost savings (annual waste handling or annual operating costs) has potential for profitability. If there are no initial costs involved, then a project can be considered economically feasible if there is a cost savings. Options such as better operating practices may be the most practical to implement first since they do not require an initial capital investment.

For projects with capital and start-up costs, an additional profitability criterion must be examined: payback period and other economic criteria (as calculated in Chapter 13). Typically, if the payback period is less than two years, the project may be considered economically feasible. This criteria varies depending on the company. There may also be other profitability measures that must be considered; this, too, will depend on the company. Before making the final economic feasibility determination, the accounting department controller should be consulted since his/her approval will usually be necessary before the project may proceed. Give the accountant or controller copies of the pollution prevention cost references mentioned in the previous chapter.

Environmental Evaluation

Factors to consider when conducting an environmental evaluation include:

The team should review information on the environmental aspects of the relevant product, raw material, or constituent part of the process. The team should consider the environmental effects not only of the production phase and product life cycle but also of extracting and transporting the alternative raw materials and of managing any new wastes.

Companies should start working with the appropriate regulatory agencies as early in the evaluation process as possible. Some pollution prevention projects will require new permits or changes to existing permits. It will also be necessary to learn what regulations might apply to the project. Appendix B and Appendix G of this manual provide contacts for assistance in the environmental evaluation of pollution prevention options.

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