Environmental permits, and the effluent or emission limits contained in those permits, are required by law not to make your life more difficult, but to protect the water we drink and the air we breathe. Yet they often do make your life more difficult. You have to monitor the discharge or the stack on a regular basis, or pay a consultant to do it. You need to keep an eye on expiration dates; some permits require lengthy lead times for renewals. Life would just be less complicated if you didn’t have to deal with them. So, maybe it’s worth looking into whether you can do just that.

Take a look at your current permits. What’s driving the need for those permits? Are there operational changes you can make that will eliminate the need for the permit? For example, is there a substitute chemical that is not considered a hazardous air pollutant? Or can you recycle your wastewater, or install a closed loop system? Are you spending a lot to treat wastewater that wouldn’t need treatment if you changed what made it into the wastewater in the first place? Even if you’ve looked at your systems in the past, it may be worth taking a second look; new substitutes may be available that weren’t a few years ago. The cost to change your operation may be less now, with new technology. Instituting a periodic review of processes with the goal of eliminating pollution before it ever makes it into your system is a good practice.

Similarly, can you minimize or eliminate hazardous waste at your plant? Is there a different source material that will result in less waste? If you’re using solvents, can you install a closed-loop system that filters the solvents? Hazardous waste is expensive to dispose of, and the more you generate, the more rigorous the regulations are. Can you eliminate solid waste (garbage)? Can more be recycled or reused to eliminate waste. Periodically looking at your waste generation may result in changes to your processes that also result in less waste, which in turn is likely to result in less regulation.

The best source of ideas on how to minimize waste or end-of-pipe pollution may be your own workforce. Involving them in this periodic review has the potential to give them a sense of ownership of the process. It is also likely to end up saving you money, both to dispose of the waste and to do all those things necessary to comply with your permits.