What's New


Free Offers

Order Forms

Programs &

Planning &



Home Page

Pollution Prevention - Getting Started

Fact Sheet Number 5
May 1993

Whether your business has two employees or two thousand, pollution prevention is an achievable goal with many associated benefits. Realizing those benefits, however, begins with selecting the pollution prevention alternatives that are right for your company.

Policies and Goals

Successful pollution prevention begins with a commitment to prevent waste generation through policies and goals. Support and direction from top management are critical to the development of company-wide pollution prevention policies. It is important to include a pollution prevention hierarchy in your policy development. Then examine all waste streams for source reduction and recycling potential - in that order.

  • Priority one is source reduction - the reduction or elimination of solid and hazardous wastes and other environmental releases to air or water at their point of generation. This includes reducing toxic chemical use or any release into the environment through changes in the waste generating or other production process. Source reduction measures may include process modification, feedstock purity, good operating and management practices, increasing the efficiency of machinery and recycling within a waste generating or other production process.

  • Prevention of waste through source reduction is the ultimate and often most cost-effective waste management strategy.

  • Recycling/reuse is the second priority. Recycle/reuse materials whenever possible. This might include using reusable containers and/or recovering valuable materials. These approaches should be considered after source reduction methods are exhausted.

Other important components of pollution prevention policies are:

  • Establishing a goal of "zero waste". A zero waste goal targets all wastes for reduction.

  • Making pollution prevention part of doing business, just as worker safety and product quality are. This includes involving and educating employees, as well as communicating with suppliers and customers.

Guidance and Review

Get the backing of top management as pollution prevention policies and goals are established to ensure successful implementation. Also, involve the individuals who will be most affected by operational changes, including maintenance staff, materials handling personnel and purchasing employees. This type of broad employee participation has been critical to success at many firms.

Select a pollution prevention task force or committee. This is a vital step for reviewing waste reduction and recycling alternatives, overseeing program development, recommending an action strategy and monitoring program implementation.

This group should meet on an ongoing basis to identify new ways to eliminate waste and develop new programs. Waste is an ever-changing commodity. As new materials such as plastic packaging find their way into your waste stream, you will need to continually identify new ways to handle materials.

Program Development

Planning for pollution prevention begins with prioritizing waste streams on the basis of toxicity, volume, cost and ability to segregate materials.

As you develop a pollution prevention plan, consider adopting an incremental approach to reduction. First, target those waste streams that can be eliminated at the source; next target those waste streams that are easiest to recycle or reuse. For example, using water-based paints instead of solvent based paints is an easy, cost-effective method to prevent waste at the source. A thorough waste audit or assessment is always important to characterize waste streams and determine volumes for source reduction potential of various materials. Other planning approaches could include targeting the highest volume waste material, or the most hazardous waste material.

As waste streams are assessed for source reduction potential, develop accounting systems that calculate the true cost of disposal and recognize benefits of pollution prevention. This means going beyond handling, transportation, treatment and disposal costs. Lost revenue of materials that could have been sold as recyclables should be included in accounting systems, as well as the value of the wasted input material.

Again, the most important opportunity to prevent pollution is at the point of generation (source reduction). You can increase operating efficiency by substituting materials or changing processes so fewer waste materials are produced. Examples of solid waste source reduction include replacing disposable materials with reusable and recyclable materials or switching to returnable containers.

Planning for Implementation

A company-wide memo describing waste policies and goals will help kick off your pollution prevention program. Solicit employee involvement, especially if you are planning a program that will require widespread employee participation. Employee involvement can be encouraged through the use of incentives. Employees might be offered the opportunity to suggest changes that can result in company savings. A portion of these savings could be passed back to the employee or their department.

Employee education and participation is critical to program success. Those who must change how they handle materials will need guidelines and training. Provisions must be made to continue these educational efforts into the future to anticipate personnel turnover.

Develop a weekly or monthly waste report to monitor the success of the program, provide employee feedback and identify problem areas. Of course, the real proof of success will show up in reduced handling and empty waste dumpsters.

Pollution Prevention Planning Checklist

As you begin to develop a pollution prevention plan for your facility, review the following checklist. It is detailed enough to make sure your main bases are covered, however, you'll want to add some of your own specific ideas.

Program Development

  1. Develop a written pollution prevention policy supported by top management.
  2. Establish ambitious and measurable pollution prevention goals, such as a reduction of 25 percent within the first year.
  3. Identify resources for technical assistance, including the local Chamber of Commerce, trade associations, state and local agencies, equipment vendors, consultants and other businesses.
  4. Designate a pollution prevention coordinator and committee.
  5. Plan a "brainstorming" session to generate pollution prevention ideas.
  6. Conduct a plant-wide waste assessment.
  7. Prioritize or rank waste handling procedures, such as source reduction, reuse, on-site recycling, off-site recycling, waste exchange, waste disposal.
  8. Identify wastes to be targeted for pollution prevention.
  9. Evaluate alternatives considering cost, ease of implementation, payback and benefit to the environment.
  10. Identify in-house resources, such as equipment that might be necessary to implement a pollution prevention program.
  11. Use a system that identifies waste handling, treatment and disposal expenses as direct costs of producing a product.
  12. Develop a cost-benefit analysis which accounts for all costs for waste management.
  13. Inform employees about your firm's pollution prevention goals and how the goals will impact daily operations.
  14. Determine storage requirements for collected recyclables.
  15. Project equipment and labor costs.
  16. Identify markets for recyclable materials.
  17. Develop an implementation schedule.

General Planning Tips

Once a management strategy has been established, you can identify some general pollution prevention activities which apply to a variety of waste types and will go a long way towards meeting your pollution prevention goals.

  • Segregate all waste streams to reduce contamination of recoverable materials.
  • Investigate waste exchange programs for both solid and hazardous waste.
  • Establish improved quality assurance/quality control procedures to reduce the generation of rejected products.
  • Replace disposable materials with reusable and recyclable materials.
  • Investigate the use of returnable and/or recyclable containers and pallets.
  • Identify specific waste materials that could be recycled either on-site or off-site.
  • Provide employee training for source reduction and any other pollution prevention activities that will require a change in behavior.
  • Establish an incentive program which encourages personnel to suggest changes which would reduce waste.
  • Explore the use of recovery equipment for reducing hazardous, solid and liquid wastes in the form of sludges, solvents, acids, degreasers and other wastes.
  • Identify potential production changes which would improve efficiency including process, equipment, piping and layout changes.
  • Consider procedural measures, loss prevention, material handling improvements and production scheduling to reduce wastes.
  • Investigate opportunities for product or ingredient substitution which would reduce the creation of waste.
  • Purchase materials in bulk or larger containers, but purchase only what you need to avoid spoilage or obsolescence.
  • Consider additional automation and changes in operational settings to reduce waste.
  • Control inventory to reduce waste; rotate stock, using oldest purchases first.
  • Invest in products and equipment that are durable, easily repaired, and/or recyclable.
  • Ask vendors to minimize unnecessary packaging, use recycled materials, or use returnable packaging.
  • Determine if outdated stock can be returned to suppliers for regeneration.
  • Don't accept product samples from sales people if there is a chance the samples will become a waste.

Tips for Small Businesses

  • Target one material for reduction when getting started.
  • Work with neighboring businesses to share information on recycling equipment and other storage and collection containers.
  • Initially focus on pollution prevention ideas which require minimal capital investment.
  • Involve all employees in planning and implementation.


    Facility Pollution Prevention Guide U.S. EPA, 1992 , EPA/600/R-92/088

    U.S. EPA, 1992.
    Risk Reduction Engineering Laboratory Pollution Prevention and Research Branch
    26 W. Martin Luther King Drive
    Cincinnati, Ohio 45268
    (513) 569-7215

    Pollution Prevention Information Exchange System (PIES) User Guide. 1992. EPA/600/r-92-213

    This is an updated version of the fifth in a series of fact sheets that Ohio EPA has prepared on pollution prevention.

  • The Office of Pollution Prevention was created to encourage multi-media pollution prevention activities within the state of Ohio, including source reduction and environmentally sound recycling practices. The Office analyzes, develops, and publicizes information and data related to pollution prevention. Additionally, the Office increases awareness of pollution prevention opportunities through education, outreach, and technical assistance programs directed toward business, government, and the public. For printed copies of this or other pollution prevention publications distributed by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Pollution Prevention, please call the Office of Pollution Prevention at (614) 644-3469.

    A printed copy of the Office of Pollution Prevention publications distribution list, "Pollution Prevention Information Available from Ohio EPA", may also be ordered by calling (614) 644-3469.


    Office of Pollution Prevention
    Ohio Environmental Protection Agency
    P.O. Box 1049
    Columbus, Ohio 43216-1049
    Phone (614) 644-3469
    Fax (614) 644-2807


    Navigation Links:
    Pollution Prevention Assessments, Main Menu
    Ohio EPA, Office of Pollution Prevention Home Page
    Ohio EPA Home Page

    page last updated: October 5, 2000