"The world we have
created today as a result of our thinking thus far has
problems which cannot be solved by thinking the way we
thought when we created them."
make good sense and now it is the law in Texas.
Pollution prevention is
an essential element of the States immediate and
long-term strategy to manage hazardous waste and reduce
pollutant releases to the environment. Land disposal will
continue to be a disposal option but due to stricter
regulation, its role is diminishing at both the state and
national level and, at least in the near term, capacity of
landfills is limited. EPAs program of land disposal
restriction, established in response to the 1984 Hazardous
Solid Waste Authorization (HSWA) amendments to the Resource
Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), will ban the disposal
of any untreated hazardous waste. Treatment technologies
offer another option, but treatment can be expensive, so
generators must explore other options.
There are many reasons to
reduce both the amount of waste generated and the amount of
toxic releases to the environment. The following will
discuss five important incentives:
Economic Incentives -
It pays to reduce waste.
- Its the law.
- Its our responsibility.
Public benefit -
Its the right thing to do.
Human Health and the
Environment - Its our future.
The biggest incentive for
TCU to reduce our hazardous wastes is financial. Pollution
costs, pollution prevention pays. As Tom Peters says in his
video Lean, Clean and Green "the companies that are the
cleanest first will enjoy a massive, once-in-a-century,
According to the TCEQ,
the cost of managing waste is escalating at a rate of 20 to
30 percent per year. Landfill closures are increasing the
price of disposal. Some wastes once land filled must now be
incinerated. Currently the cost for incinerating a drum of
hazardous waste can run between 300 to 2000 dollars
depending on the characteristics of the waste.
TCU must look beyond the
up-front costs of pollution prevention and examine the whole
spectrum of cost associated with pollution, including
disposal, potential liability, and regulatory costs. Other
benefits must also be considered that in an indirect way
affect the company financially, such as the immeasurable
benefits of positive public perception.
Waste minimization is a
policy specifically mandated by the U.S. Congress in the
1984 Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments to the Resource
Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). This mandate and other
RCRA provisions have led to unprecedented increases in the
cost of waste management. As a result, generators of
hazardous waste will be forced to examine other waste
management alternatives, including waste reduction.
To ensure that companies
are exploring possible source reduction actions, the
Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 was signed. This federal
act requires facilities that report under the Toxic Release
Inventory (TRI) provisions of Section 313 of SARA Title III
to provide information on pollution prevention and recycling
activities with each annual filing.
A similar action was
taken by the 72nd Legislature of Texas through Senate Bill
1099, which requires hazardous waste and TRI facilities to
have in place a source reduction and waste minimization
According to RCRA, a
hazardous waste generator is responsible for its waste from
"cradle to grave." In other words, once a business
generates a hazardous waste its legally responsible for
that waste forever. In addition, federal and state laws have
set the precedent that generators of hazardous waste are at
least partially responsible for the cleanup of wastes that
have leaked from disposal sites containing their waste. This
financial responsibility can cost hazardous waste generators
substantial sums of money.
Generators using off-site
treatment, storage, or disposal, face financial liability
when the facility operators mismanage waste and when
facility owners improperly design the disposal facility
itself. Even careful evaluation of facility management
cannot reduce these risks to zero. A generator risks
incurring liability when the treatment, storage, or disposal
facility (TSDF) owner does not pay for actions to stop
migration of wastes in soil and ground water. In these
situations, generators can be held liable under common law
for absolute, strict, joint, and several liability. In
addition, the imminent and substantial endangerment
provisions in sections 106 and 107 of the Comprehensive
Environmental Response, Comprehensive and Liability Act (CERCLA)
say that a generator or generators can be held financially
responsible for the entire cleanup or restoration of a
The "cradle to
grave" responsibility translates into what many
insurance experts now call the "liability crisis."
Liability insurance premiums have increased by 50 to 300
percent in the last several years due to the increase in law
suits against hazardous waste generators involved in
accidental spills and leaking disposal sites.
Increases in insurance
costs or an inability to obtain insurance will result in
higher treatment and disposal cost or the loss of available
treatment or disposal capacity. One possible way to reduce
this expense is to reduce the cause of the liability, which
is the generation of hazardous waste. Reducing the hazardous
waste TCU generates will reduce its long-term liability.
The public today is more
informed about environmental issues, particularly in a
university setting. They are aware of the potential effects
that hazardous waste and the release of pollutant can have
on human health and the environment. Therefore, by being
environmentally aware and working towards waste reduction we
can improve our working relationship with the public - our
community and ultimate customers.
Human and Health
The most important reason
to promote pollution prevention is to protect our health and
the environment that we all must live in. When we improve
and protect the environment we are ultimately protecting
ourselves, and future generations.
What is a
pollutant or contaminant?
A pollutant or
contaminant includes anything that could cause harm to an
organism or its offspring through exposure to a release into
the environment. An example is a substance entering humans
through the food chain (ie. pesticide residue ingested by
cattle and later transferred to humans). Another example is
the disposal of toxic substances into a drainage system
(i.e. paint thinner poured down a septic tank or wastewater
The Waste Reduction
Policy Act of 1991 is mainly concerned with pollutants or
contaminants that are defined as "hazardous
wastes." Hazardous wastes are a subset of solid wastes.
Basically, a solid waste is a liquid, solid, semisolid, or
gaseous material that is either no longer wanted or no
longer fit for its intended purpose.
Federal (40 CFR Part 261)
and Texas (TAC, Chapter 335) regulations define a solid
waste as hazardous if it has one or more of the following
Ignitability - ignitable
hazardous wastes can burn under certain conditions.
Corrosivity - corrosive
hazardous wastes include those that are acidic and those
which can rapidly corrode steel.
Reactivity - reactive
hazardous wastes react violently under normal conditions,
such as coming in contact with water.
Toxicity - toxic
hazardous wastes are harmful or deadly when swallowed,
inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
Solid waste is also
considered hazardous if it is listed on one of the three
lists developed by the United States Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA).
Nonspecific Source Wastes
(40 CFR 261.31) - general wastes, commonly produced by
manufacturing and industrial processes (i.e. spent
halogenated solvents, dioxin waste).
Specific Source Wastes
(40 CFR 261.32) - wastes from specifically identified
industries such as wood processing, petroleum refining, and
organic chemical manufacturing (i.e. sludges, still bottoms,
Products (40 CFR 261.33 (e) and (f) - specific commercial
chemical products, or manufacturing intermediates (i.e.
chloroform, creosote, sulfuric acid, DDT).
While many wastes have
dangerous properties, not all are defined as hazardous. For
instance, radioactive and infectious wastes are considered
dangerous, but they are not defined as hazardous waste and
therefore, are regulated differently than hazardous wastes.
What can be done
to prevent pollution?
Unfortunately, we cannot
immediately make pollutants and contaminants go away. During
the manufacture of many products that we use every day,
pollutants are produced. Examples from large industries
include automobile products (gasoline), plastic packaging,
building materials, insecticides, and medicines. Small
generators also produce pollutants when they provide photo
processing services, educational services, dry cleaning
services and more.
So, what can be done? The
best solution is to generate and release as little as
possible, reduce the volume or the hazardous properties, and
dispose of the remaining waste safely.
Current Texas state law
(Solid Waste Disposal Act) encourages an "order of
preference" for methods of treating, storing, and
disposing of waste. That order is:
recycling of waste;
treatment to destroy
treatment to reduce
The Waste Reduction
Policy Act focuses on the top categories of the Texas
preferred waste management techniques-including source
reduction, reuse or recycling and some limited forms of
The preferred method in
pollution prevention is called source reduction. In general,
source reduction includes any activity that reduces or
eliminates the generation of hazardous waste at the source.
Source reduction can include input material changes,
technology changes, and implementation of good operating
practices to eliminate hazardous waste at its source.
Next in the order of
preference for pollution prevention includes practices known
as waste minimization. Waste minimization refers to
practices that reduce the environmental or health hazards
associated with hazardous wastes, pollutants, or
contaminants. Examples may include reuse, recycling,
neutralization and detoxification.
The goal of the source
reduction/waste minimization requirements is to promote
companies to assess their pollutants and contaminants so
that they can organize the most successful pollution
prevention effort possible. By actively participating in
this effort, TCU can help in obtaining the specific
pollution prevention goals of the State. The specific goals
of the CLEAN TEXAS 2000 initiative are to reduce the
generation of hazardous waste and toxic releases by 50% or
more by the year 2000 (from 1987 levels). to reduce the
amounts of wastes going into landfills by 50% by the year
2000, and to educate all Texans about how they can help
preserve and protect the air, land, and waters of the state.
For more information
about TCU's Pollution Prevention Plan and activities, or to
volunteer your time in a pollution prevention subcommittee
or workgroup, call the Risk Management Department (x7220).