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Pollution prevention saves Colorado companies money.

Strained relations between some Colorado industries and their regulators have evolved into an alliance of corporations, government agencies and public interest groups dedicated to reducing the use of hazardous chemicals.

Late in 1989, representatives of Adolph Coors Company, Hewlett-Packard, Martin Marietta's Astronautics Group and Public Service Company of Colorado met with a private consulting engineer and officials from the Environmental Protection Agency's regional office and the Colorado Department of Health to discuss ways of improving their working relationship.

The group agreed to meet regularly and soon invited representatives of the League of Women Voters and the Colorado Public Interest Research Group to join them in working on the problem of industrial pollution. The goals of this Pollution Prevention Partnership include pooling resources, focusing staff attention on pollution prevention, exchanging information and sharing expertise with other companies.

The partnership's first project, dubbed "SolvNet," was reducing the use of chlorinated, ozone-depleting solvents, especially TCA (trichloroethane). The goal was to reduce TCA use by the end of 1991 by specific target amounts: 70 percent for the companies in the partnership, 50 percent for electronic circuit board manufacturers and metal fabricators and 30 percent for other heavy solvent users. Preliminary figures show that most of the industries have met their goals or have come close. Coors, for example, has cut its use of TCA by more than 95 percent.

To help small manufacturers reduce solvent use, the EPA asked the Waste Minimization Assessment Center at Colorado State University to conduct assessments at a sheet metal shop and an electronic component manufacturing company and recommend environmentally safer ways to make their products.

To the metal fabrication company, which employs 65 workers and does $5 million worth of business a year, the team of engineering professors and students recommended substituting a water-based cleaner for TCA, recycling solvent instead of shipping it out for incineration and switching to a more efficient paint gun. By spending $15,000 to make these changes, the company would save $11,000 a year, the team reported.

Similarly, the 500-employee company that makes micro-electronic components could save $48,000 a year with a $53,000 investment in a special dishwater and other changes that would reduce its use of acetone, isopropyl alcohol and freon. Together, the two companies would reduce their solvent use by 5,100 gallons a year.

"This is not rocket science," says CSU's Harry Edwards, "It's practical, quick payback technology that's off the shelf. Pollution prevention pays. Companies can pollute less and at the same time save money and become more competitive."

The partnership's influence in Colorado is widening. Some of its members also serve on the governor's Pollution Prevention Advisory Board, which helped draft legislation introduced in the Colorado House in February. The bill, sponsored by Representative Shirleen Tucker, would make pollution prevention the environmental management tool of first choice and create a technical assistance program for businesses.

Thirty states currently have enacted or proposed some kind of pollution prevention laws.
COPYRIGHT 1992 National Conference of State Legislatures
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Title Annotation:On First Reading; Pollution Prevention Partnership
Publication:State Legislatures
Date:May 1, 1992
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