Waste and Air Quality Management

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Pollution Prevention

Pollution prevention (P2) is reducing or eliminating waste at the source by modifying production processes, promoting the use of non-toxic or less-toxic substances, implementing conservation techniques, and re-using materials rather than putting them into the waste stream. Pollution control is a term used in environmental management. It means the control of emissions and effluents into air, water or soil. Without pollution controls the undesirable waste products from human consumption, industrial production, agricultural activities, mining, transportation and other sources will accumulate or disperse and degrade the natural environment. In the hierarchy of controls, pollution prevention and waste minimization are more desirable than pollution control.

Pollution is the introduction of contaminants, due to human activity, into an environment that cause harm or discomfort to humans or other living organisms, or damage the environment. Pollution can be in the form of chemical substances, or energy such as noise, heat, or light. Pollutants can be naturally occurring substances or energies, but are considered contaminants when in excess of natural levels. Pollution is often categorized into point source and nonpoint source pollution.

Forms of Pollution

The major forms of pollution are listed below along with the particular pollutants relevant to each of them:

  • Air pollution, the release of chemicals and particulates into the atmosphere. Common examples include carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), and nitrogen oxides produced by industry and motor vehicles. Photochemical ozone and smog are created as nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons react to sunlight.
  • Water pollution via runoff, leaching to groundwater, liquid spills, wastewater discharges, eutrophication and littering.
  • Soil contamination occurs when chemicals are released by spill or underground storage tank leakage. Among the most significant soil contaminants are hydrocarbons, heavy metals, MTBE<4>, herbicides, pesticides and chlorinated hydrocarbons. -Radioactive contamination, added in the wake of 20th century discoveries in atomic physics. (See alpha emitters and actinides in the environment.)
  • Noise pollution, which encompasses roadway noise, aircraft noise, industrial noise as well as high-intensity sonar.
  • Light pollution, includes light trespass, over-illumination and astronomical interference.
  • Visual pollution, which can refer to the presence of overhead power lines, motorway billboards, scarred landforms (as from strip mining), open storage of trash or municipal solid waste.
  • Thermal pollution, is a temperature change in natural water bodies caused by human influence, such as use of water as coolant in a power plant.

The Effects on Human Health

Adverse air quality can kill many organisms including humans. Ozone pollution can cause respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, throat inflammation, chest pain, and congestion. Water pollution causes approximately 14,000 deaths per day, mostly due to contamination of drinking water by untreated sewage in developing countries. Oil spills can cause skin irritations and rashes. Noise pollution induces hearing loss, high blood pressure, stress, and sleep disturbance.

The Effects on Our Ecosystem

Sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen can cause acid rain which reduces the pH value of soil. Soil can become infertile and unsuitable for plants. This will affect other organisms in the food web. Smog and haze can reduce the amount of sunlight received by plants to carry out photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the process by which plants, some bacteria, and some protistans use the energy from sunlight to produce sugar and oxygen.

Tips on Conserving Energy

At Home

There is a lot that you can do in your home that will save energy and water and reduce the amount of waste created, while at the same time saving your family money. Here are some things you, your friends, and family may already be doing or can do in the future to prevent pollution.

Conserving Water

  • Turn the water off while you are brushing your teeth, washing, or shaving. Do not let it run continuously.
  • Have a short shower instead of a bath. When bathing, be sure not to overfill the tub.
  • When washing dishes or cleaning fruit and vegetables partially fill sink and rinse then wash them quickly under the tap rather than letting the water run continuously.
  • Conserve water by using just enough to cook food (ex. when boiling pasta).
  • If you can adjust the water level on your washing machine, ensure that you use only as much water as is necessary, and wait until you have a full load to run the washing machine.
  • Promptly repair leaks in and around taps, faucets, and toilet tanks.

Conserving Power

  • Turn off lights when you leave a room.
  • Use the energy saver option.
  • If possible, line-dry your clothes outside in the summer.
  • Replace regular light bulbs with more energy-efficient, longer-lasting fluorescent bulbs.
  • For small meals, try using the microwave instead of heating up the oven.
  • Only use water heater when neccessary.
  • Ensure that windows and door frames are sealed properly to avoid heat or cool air from escaping.

Reducing Waste

  • Ensure that your household is implementing a recycling program.
  • Find further uses for things instead of just discarding them. Glass jars and plastic containers can be used to store bulk food .
  • Re-use plastic grocery bags for shopping or use as garbage bags, or buy or make cloth shopping bags that can be used time and time again.
  • Cardboard boxes and paper bags can be used to store things or when packing items.
  • Many household items, such as clothing, toys, and furniture, can be donated or sold at garage sales.
  • Books and magazines can be donated to hospitals, senior citizens’ residences, and schools.
  • Recycle green waste. This will produce your own fertilizer and reduce the amount of garbage from your home.

Being Consumer Wise

  • Buy in bulk to reduce waste instead of little by little
  • Try to purchase products that have been recycled or are recyclable
  • Use safer alternatives to hazardous chemicals.
  • Use less toxic cleaners, adhesives, paints, paint removers etc.

At Work

Here are some tips on how you can practice pollution prevention in the office: Conserving Water

  • Ensure that taps are turned off tightly to avoid dripping.
  • Report leaks in and around taps, faucets, and toilet tanks to the office manager.

Conserving Power

  • Use the stairs instead of the elevator for short trips in order to save electricity and get exercise.
  • Turn off lights and computer equipment at the end of the day to save energy.
  • Use fluorescent lighting, to save on replacement costs and utility bills.
  • Purchase office equipment with automatic power-saving devices.

Reducing Waste

  • Try to make documents and photocopies double-sided.
  • Use e-mail, when possible, to reduce the amount of paper used.
  • Take your lunch to work in re-usable containers or re-usable lunch bags
  • If they aren’t collected at work, take recyclable and compostable items home.
  • Encourage the implementation of a recycling program.
  • Organize an informal recycling program if there is no formal program in place
  • Re-use paper that has only been used on one side and office supplies such as envelopes, paper clips, elastic bands, file folders, binders, etc.
  • Before throwing items away, see if your colleagues can use them.
  • Instead of using disposable cups, use your own re-usable coffee mug or glass

Promoting Environmental Thinking

  • Encourage purchases of paper and other office supplies from environmentally conscious manufacturers.
  • Utilize less polluting alternatives when commuting (ex. carpooling, riding a bicycle).
  • Promote the concept of pollution prevention.
  • Plan environmental education events.

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