Hazardous Waste Production Down in Washington

“Between 1992 and 1998, businesses in Washington reduced the amount of hazardous waste they produce by 88 million pounds, according to the Department of Ecology. The reduction occurred even as the number of businesses grew by 41 percent. In 1992, Washington businesses generated about 317 million pounds of hazardous waste, compared to 229 million pounds in 1998, according to Ecology figures. Officials with Ecology said the 1990 Hazardous Waste Reduction Act provided the foundation for the reduction. Under that law, the department provides technical assistance to businesses that generate hazardous waste. Beginning in 1992, facilities creating 2,640 or more pounds of waste annually were required to conduct pollution-prevention planning. Greg Sorlie, who manages Ecology’s hazardous waste program, said without pollution-prevention planning, hazardous waste discharges in Washington likely would have increased significantly during the same time period due to strong business growth.The production of hazardous wastes in Washington is now only about half of what it would have been without the pollution-prevention program, Sorlie said. It shows what can happen when the public and private sectors put their creative energies to work together. Companies benefit, and so do the public and the environment. Industries in Washington are not required to create pollution-prevention plans on their own, Sorlie said. State environmental scientists and engineers provide assistance to manufacturers. They advance prevention plans by developing cost analyses of pollution-prevention opportunities, and suggesting process improvements using less toxic products and smaller amounts of hazardous substances in production lines. With assistance in implementing the pollution-prevention plans, businesses can cut hazardous wastes extensively, said Bob Lemcke, who works in Ecology’s hazardous waste program. The health benefits for humans and the environment are obvious, Lemcke said. But there also are economic benefits for companies because they often end up needing less materials in their production processes. They also save on disposal costs by producing a smaller volume of hazardous waste.”