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Pollution prevention is as easy as good housekeeping, keeping equipment well maintained or switching to a less hazardous product. The hardest part is usually changing mind sets about the traditional way of doing things. Specific examples for reducing common wastes are presented here with resources cited for more detailed information (links go to external resources). A general overview of pollution prevention opportunities is given at the end. In all waste reduction and pollution prevention efforts, keep in mind the waste management hierarchy:
Get a realistic overview of wastes generated by a particular teaching area so each can be addressed. A tool for evaluating present practices and wastes is the Laboratory Self-Audit. Create a formal or informal management system to deal with wastes. (See: Environmental Management Systems for more information.)
Parts cleaning solvents can be conserved by pre-cleaning parts with reused solvent. This reduces solvent purchases so it also saves money. Minimize costs and regulatory liabilities even further by switching to aqueous cleaning solutions in mechanical labs -- see Aqueous Parts Cleaning. There are a number of solvent alternatives available that are not as harmful to the environment -- see Guide to Cleaner Technologies - Alternatives to Chlorinated Solvents for Cleaning and Degreasing
Prevent soil erosion and water pollution by practicing small-scale conservation tillage, where plots are tilled minimally or not at all. Soil remains protected by plant residues providing food for microorganisms and increasing organic matter. See Conservation Tillage Facts for more information.
Reduce paint-contaminated wastes by: laundering used shop towels and rags, using reusable paint mixing cups and sticks, filtering and reusing solvents and paint thinners, and using water-based, low VOC coatings whenever possible. For more information, see Paints, Solvents and Wood Preservatives.
Reduce pesticide use and laboratory expenses while maximizing productivity in the greenhouse and farm plot by using a balance of pest prevention and control techniques. This approach is know as integrated pest management (IPM) -- see Integrated Pest Management for more information.
Reuse of materials on site is often overlooked but can significantly reduce waste disposal. Also consider obtaining supplies or distributing unneeded items through local materials exchange programs. To find materials exchanges, go to Materials Exchanges on the Web.
The following materials can often be recycled: scrap metal, aluminum cans, glass, and engine-related fluids such as oil, antifreeze, and coolants. Plant materials can be composted; manure can be used as fertilizer. For more information on reuse and recycling see:
Reduce building material waste by buying only what is needed and using it efficiently; "measure twice and cut once." Sort scraps according to size and type so it's easy to find a smaller piece when needed. More information can be found at: Efficient Wood Use in Residential Construction.
Protect water quality in greenhouse operations through irrigation and fertilizer management, pesticide reduction and proper use of cleaning products and disinfectants. See Water Quality Handbook for Nurseries for more information.
Avoid exposure to dust in cabinet-type sand-blasters. The dust generated is classified by the EPA as an air pollutant and harmful to human health. Use wet sanding methods and amorphous silicas rather than crystalline silicas for blasting. For more information on alternatives and risks see: Preventing Silicosis and Deaths in Construction Workers.
Hub Last Updated: 08/08/2003