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Water Pollution Prevention for Businesses


Having clean water is a fundamental need for those living in an area. If water is contaminated with pollutants, residents cannot drink the water without risking every aspect of their health. Even though most areas have a water treatment plant, some water contaminants cannot be "treated" out of the water. Water is necessary for cooking, cleaning, and - most importantly - living. To have unclean drinking water is to be denied of a basic human necessity and must be addressed with the utmost urgency.

Businesses have a long history of causing the people of an area to have unclean drinking water. This history is so extensive that most Western countries have ruled the dumping of waste into lakes, streams, and so forth as illegal in all circumstances. By now, all Western companies should know that the purposeful dumping of chemicals or waste into lakes, seas, rivers, and so on is not only a terrible idea for the company's reputation and financial stability, but also for well-being of the area's residents.

Unfortunately, there is still a lot of waste from businesses that ends up in the water supply. Office paper, food wrappers, water bottles, and coffee cups still manage to somehow invade local waters despite the illegality and lessening of business waste dumping. Usually this waste is not put into the water supply on purpose. The waste travels to the water because of waste containers and dump sites that are either overflowing or are insecure. Nonetheless, pollution is pollution, whether done so purposefully or not. Companies, particularly those that are close to the water, need to contain and reduce their waste to lower the risk of some ending up in the water.

Before beginning the journey to reduce their contribution to water pollution, companies should know what is defined as "waste." Waste is any thing that has been thrown away and is meant to be sent off to a dump site. Contrary to popular belief, there are things that should and should not be waste.

Waste should not include any item that has a recycling symbol unless that item is soiled (meaning these items are caked with grease, oil, paint or another substance). All recyclable items should be recycled or, if feasible, composted. Additionally, waste should never include batteries, tyres, mercury lightbulbs, or any form of technology. These items contain or are highly toxic materials to the environment and should be taken to the appropriate recycling facilities to be disposed of properly.

Once companies know what is and is not defined as waste, they should begin to adhere to that knowledge. That means more items should be recycled and less items should end up in the rubbish bin. There is no need to have a bin full of paper, pizza boxes, water bottles, broken pencils and hard plastic food containers for instance. Once rinsed out if need be, all of these items can be recycled.

Companies should also lower their use of items that cannot be recycled or thrown away unless at a proper facility. Although companies should take such items to the proper facilities, most cannot find the time do so and likely will still end up throwing these items away. To avoid this, businesses should refrain from using these items if practical. That means using rechargeable batteries and avoiding mercury lightbulbs. Despite the fact that these lightbulbs are advertised as the environmentally friendly alternative to the conventional lightbulb, this is untrue. While mercury lightbulbs do consume less energy, if broken open, they prove to be exceptionally toxic to the environment and to the health and safety of people in the vicinity.

Recycled material is put back to use somewhere in the world meaning that there is no addition to landfill sites. Although safety measures will be in place for containment, these sites are sometimes major contributors to water pollution if liquids escape and find their way into local watercourses. Recycling helps to ease this problem and thus lessen the negative status of the water's health.

Re-Use as Well as Recycle

The re-use and conservation of material should take even more priority over the act of recycling materials, as items which can be re-used will not require any processing to change it as would be the case for recycling.

Businesses should have a general rule of thumb of "If it is still usable, use it." For example, the other side of one-page documents can be re-utilised to print another one-page document. Another example would be re-using page protectors that are in good condition instead of throwing away or recycling them with the rest of a project portfolio. If a document is more than one page, the office printer should be set to print automatically double-sided, as many people will either frequently forget or not even be aware of the fact that the printer has the capability to print on both sides of the paper. These simple tactics will save a tremendous amount of paper over the course of a year.

Instead of using disposable plastic cups for drinks of water, employees should be encouraged to use washable mugs which can be cleaned at the end of the day and re-used the following morning.

Waste and Recycling Storage

Once businesses reduce their waste, they should make sure the waste that they still have and their recycled items are stored and contained properly. Garbage receptacles should be difficult to open accidentally, but of course should be easy for the average worker to open. Recycling receptacles should also follow the same standards, and should be clearly identifiable as to which is for recycling and for what type of materials. If a business is located on or near the waterfront, they should not put any waste or recycling receptacle in front of the water front. If a stray piece of material is outside the bins and the tide or water level rises, the water will pick up this material, or the whole bin in severe weather such as flooding or high winds. To prevent this from happening, waterfront businesses should place their bins in a shielded area.

COSHH/Hazardous Substances

Aside from reducing and properly containing waste, businesses should be careful when using and storing cleaning supplies. The cleaning and disinfectant agents in the cleaner are by their very nature hazardous to biological life in order to kill germs, which means the ingredients in them are often extremely hazardous to the water supply and to a person's health in general. There are however a number of environmentally-friendly alternatives to mainstream cleaning products. Businesses will have to research these products to find which ones best suit their needs and budget.

Companies should never lose sight of the fact for every thing that ends up in the rubbish bin, it is one more potential item that could end up in the water supply. For every fluid ounce of toxic cleaner used to clean the workplace, that is one more fluid ounce of poison which could find its way into the water supply. Maintaining a clean water supply is key to having a healthy civilisation, and unpolluted water is essential for the health and wellbeing of creatures living in the water, so businesses always need to ensure that they are not polluting the water in every possible way they can for the benefit of both people and the environment.

Related Course

Please see below for more information on the NEBOSH Environmental Certificate:

NEBOSH Certificate in Environmental Management

The NEBOSH Environmental Certificate, or NEBOSH National Certificate in Environmental Management to give it its full title, is an environmental health and safety course which is intended to be taken by managers, supervisors and any other employees who are responsible for managing environmental issues at their workplace.

The NEBOSH Environmental Certificate qualification focuses on UK law, so is really only suitable for those who are based and operate within the UK.

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