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Chasing hazardous wastes from the workplace.

Companies find that replacing, reducing and eliminating hazardous materials results in fewer hazardous wastes, lower costs and improved worker safety.

Bob Brown remembers the good old days when a business didn't have to worry about disposing of solvents. The owner of Bob's Services, an Anchorage hydraulics shop, installed a solvent reclaimer after finding that it would cost $750 to have paint waste hauled away. He says, "No one made an issue of it until three or four years ago. Used to be, you could pour the stuff on the ground."

Today, safety and environmental regulations constantly challenge businesses. To cope with increasing regulation and rising disposal costs, company managers must examine manufacturing and production processes from beginning to end -- and then beyond.

Says Ralph Hulberd of Alaska Pollution Control, an Anchorage company that recycles used oil, "The whole thing is economics. You need to think about the full life cycle of the products you use or make, and that includes the cost of disposal or the penalties for improper disposal."

To take control of the amount and flow of hazardous materials in a company, management must set an agenda for action. Steps to reduce, replace and eliminate hazardous materials include product substitution, waste segregation, leak and spill prevention, good housekeeping and recycling.

Because society sees waste reduction as a high priority, free help and matching funds are available to Alaska businesses. One source is the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation's Office of Pollution Prevention. David Wigglesworth, chief of the Pollution Prevention Office in Juneau, explains that the new emphasis on waste reduction, as opposed to waste disposal, "requires a shift in thinking from 'What do I do with it?' to 'How do I prevent it in the first place?"

Setting Priorities. Waste reduction requires a well-thought-out program given priority by management. The program must be continuous with periodic assessments. It should be documented in writing and should provide total-cost accounting of materials and processes, including disposal.

Says Harry McDonald, president of trucking firm Carlile Enterprises of Anchorage, "If management doesn't get behind it, it won't work. Absolutely."

The first step in creating a waste-reduction plan is an audit to identify the types and quantities of waste generated. An individual or team charged with audit responsibility uses records, vendor information and other sources. Because employees are most familiar with operations, employee interviews can provide valuable observations and suggestions about how to reduce waste.

The audit also entails a walk through the business to identify where waste is occurring, verify previously collected information and observe activities in operation. By reviewing information collected, the company can identify which options are available to reduce waste.

Says Kris Benson, deputy director for the Alaska Health Project, a non-profit organization promoting safety and health in the workplace and the community, "The idea of the audit and walk-through is to take a fresh look at the entire business from what comes in the door to what goes out -- products, by-products and waste. A lot of waste reduction is just common sense, but you've got to be looking for it."

A Hazmat Diet. One of the simplest ways to eliminate waste is to substitute a non-hazardous material for a hazardous one. For example, citrus-based solvents often can replace chlorinated or petroleum-based cleaners, and water-based paints can be substituted for petroleum-based paints.

Companies also can find different ways to accomplish old tasks. For example, cleaning parts mechanically reduces solvents used.

At the Anchorage Hilton Hotel, managers found they could substitute non-hazardous or less-hazardous chemicals in several operations. Not only was hazardous waste reduced, but worker safety also was improved. Maria James, communications manager for the hotel, says, "We re-evaluated the chemicals in the pool area and eliminated the use of acid. In the kitchen, we substituted a less toxic chemical for soaking the silverware."

Because anything added to hazardous waste becomes contaminated and creates more hazardous waste, companies should avoid combining various wastes, segregating them instead. In addition to reducing disposal costs, this practice enables firms to recycle or sell non-hazardous wastes.

Jim Hudson, general manager of Nye Toyota of Anchorage, estimates that segregating oil, antifreeze and solvents saves $6,000 per year at each of Nye's Alaska outlets. "It really helps control cost and it's not too hard. We completely control the waste -- all the waste." Segregating the products allows used oil to be converted to fuel and be burned for heat.

Eliminating leaks and spills is one of the most straight forward ways of reducing waste. While looking for leaks, auditors should remember to notice air emissions. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation estimates that 50 percent of solvents is lost through evaporation. Covering solvent baths and tanks and capping containers when not in use prevents evaporation.

To avoid spills, hazardous materials should be stored conveniently, safely and out of the way of heavy equipment. Using pumps and funnels when handling liquids and putting drip pans under spigots also can reduce waste.

Not the least of practices that reduce hazardous waste is simply good housekeeping. Keeping areas neat and orderly provides a clear field of vision for spotting leaks, corrosion and other problems that may lead to mishandled hazardous waste. Sally Edwards of the Anchorage Office of Pollution Prevention says using a simple, color-coding system to identify materials to be segregated or recycled is one aspect of good housekeeping that makes a waste-reduction plan more effective.

To improve housekeeping and prevent spills, the Anchorage Hilton rearranged its laundry to place chemicals closer to washing machines. Also, automating chemical mixing, in place of employees measuring the cleaners, has reduced the amount of chemicals used and increased accuracy.

Reuse, Recycle. Many hazardous materials can be filtered, reclaimed or recycled. For example, solvents can be recovered and by reusing solvent as a pre-soak, the life of fresh solvent baths can be extended. Cleaning out tank sludge also prolongs the usefulness of solvents.

Mike Andrews, business manager for the International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades, Local 1555 of Fairbanks, says paint waste can be used or recycled. The union sponsors a "paint swap" day in Fairbanks that allows people to give unwanted paint to someone who can use it. Leftovers are given to charities.

Andrews points out that, driven by disposal costs, some paint stores are taking trade-ins. Old paints can be blended together and reused, he explains. Local 1555 also supports a door-to-door solvent-recycling project in which union members take solvent recycling equipment to small businesses.

In some operations, choosing the right equipment can help prevent waste. Carlile's McDonald estimates fuel savings of 10 percent since installing computers to control mileage and pollution in Carlile's truck fleet. In addition, Carlile has installed double-walled fuel tanks on sealed pads to prevent spills.

Andrews notes that equipment selection can help prevent wasted paint. "A regular spray gun may lose up to 50 percent of the paint. But a high-volume low-pressure gun has a transfer efficiency of 70 to 80 percent, and an electrostatic spray gun is almost 100 percent efficient for metal coating," he explains.

That's important, Andrews adds, because a gallon of solvent-based paint sprayed into the atmosphere has the same toxicity as a luxury car running for six months. Spray booths and mixing only the amount needed also can reduce wasted paint.

Common Sense. Many ways of reducing waste are -- or should be -- standard business practice. Documentation, inventory control, preventive maintenance and employee training not only reduce the amount of hazardous materials used but add to a firm's overall efficiency.

Inventory controls that include a centralized purchasing system can ensure that the least toxic alternative is considered and that no surplus materials are ordered. Notes Larry Wilkinson, manager of environmental services for Northwest EnviroService in Anchorage, "One thing to be aware of at the purchasing point is how you intend to dispose of this product you're buying."

In addition, establishing a purchasing schedule and rotating stock help ensure that supplies don't become outdated. Another consideration when purchasing supplies is that selecting appropriate-size containers can reduce handling and prevent spills.

Wilkinson points out that documentation can save needless expense. Because any waste whose composition is unknown must be considered a hazardous waste, timely and accurate records help companies avoid testing questionable materials or treating them as hazardous wastes. Wilkinson says, "I've seen a lot of lab fees for wastes that exceeded disposal fees." Good record keeping also will help to evaluate the waste-reduction program.

Another sound business practice, preventive maintenance, not only helps reduce waste, but eliminates breakdowns and delays. Replacing gaskets, valves and fittings helps avoid leaks and emissions. Regular maintenance of vehicles and other equipment saves fuel and raw materials and prevents bad batches and ruined production runs.

To be an asset to a waste-reduction plan, employee training should educate workers about equipment and procedures used in waste reduction. Meeting with workers to discuss waste-reduction goals and methods also can provide an opportunity for suggestions and feedback.

Alaska Health Project's Benson notes that even a short monthly meeting can be beneficial. "Employees have the best ideas on small steps. Training helps employees take the conservation view."

Hazmat Help. Alaska businesses can find help in reducing hazardous waste from the Department of Environmental Conservation's Office of Prevention Pollution and the Alaska Health Project.

The Office of Pollution Prevention is a non-regulatory program that provides on-site technical assistance to identify waste-reduction methods. The office offers help in developing and implementing waste-reduction programs, publishes the Pollution Prevention Bulletin to educate firms on waste-reduction technologies and procedures, and sponsors various education, referral and awards programs. In addition, businesses can call the office's Pollution Prevention Technical Assistance Hotline in Juneau, 465-5275; Anchorage, 276-2864; or statewide, 800-478-2864.

Office of Pollution Prevention grants of up to $10,000 are available to businesses; local governments; and labor, trade or non-profit organizations. The funds must be used for feasibility analysis and evaluating ways to reduce hazardous waste through source reduction and recycling. Grants must be matched equally by the grantee, in cash or through in-kind contributions such as labor or supplies. For more information about Office of Pollution Prevention programs, call 465-5275 in Juneau; 563-6529 in Anchorage; or 451-2134 in Fairbanks.

The Alaska Health Project offers free, confidential on-site audits that include detailed reports. The organization also provides inexpensive waste-reduction guides based on audit results for more than 20 kinds of businesses. Other services include research, referrals, waste-reduction counseling and a reference library. Contact the Alaska Health Project in Anchorage at 276-2864; outside Anchorage at 800-478-2864.

While hazardous waste reduction hasn't been a business priority for long, it promises to be the wave of the future. Waste reduction offers more benefits to business in costs and safety than waste disposal. And besides, says Nye's Hudson, waste reduction isn't so hard: "It gets to be a habit."

12 Easy Ways To Identify & Reduce Waste

The ability to create a useful plan to reduce waste begins with an audit that identifies where waste is occurring and what your company's options are for eliminating it. One of the most important steps in an audit is a walk through your business to identify firsthand where hazardous materials are being wasted or misused. Remember that wastes can be liquid, vapor, solid or a mixture of those forms.

Answer these easy questions with a close examination of your business practices and you'll be well on the way to solving waste problems:

1. Does your facility show signs of poor housekeeping -- cluttered walkways, unswept floors, uncovered material drums?

2. Are there noticeable spills, leaking containers, or water dripping or running?

3. Is there discoloration or corrosion on walls, work surfaces, ceilings or pipes? Stains may indicate system leaks or poorly maintained equipment.

4. Do you see smoke, dirt or fumes to indicate material losses?

5. Do you smell strange odors or experience eye, nose or throat irritation when you first enter the workplace? These symptoms often indicate system leaks.

6. Are there open containers, stacked drums, shelves too small to properly handle inventory, or other indicators of poor storage procedures?

7. Are all containers labeled to indicate contents and hazards?

8. Is emergency equipment, such as fire extinguishers, available and visible to ensure rapid response to a fire, spill or other incident?

9. Do you notice waste being generated from activities in your facility such as dripping water, steam or evaporation?

10. Check your inventory. Are there any outdated stock or materials no longer in use still in storage?

11. Do employees have any comments about the sources of waste in the facility?

12. Is there a history of spills, leaks, accidents or fires in your facility? Which manufacturing or production processes were involved?
COPYRIGHT 1992 Alaska Business Publishing Company, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:includes related article; Hazmat Guide, part 3
Author:Gerhart, Clifford
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Date:Aug 1, 1992
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