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Part 5:

Environmental awareness

Part 5: Environmental awareness

Contents
The Environment ....................................................................................3
Business and the Environment .............................................................3
Pollution ..................................................................................................4
Air Pollution ..........................................................................................5
Water Pollution.....................................................................................5
Land Pollution ......................................................................................5
Pollution Prevention and Control ..........................................................6
Waste .....................................................................................................7
Duty of Care .........................................................................................8

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Part 5: Environmental awareness

The Environment
The word environment refers to all that is necessary for life on earth, i.e. water, land, air,
and climate.
The environment provides the essential resources for society and business e.g. air, water,
food and raw materials including minerals and biological materials. The environment also
functions as a sink for the waste arising from domestic and industrial activity.

Business and the Environment


Many aspects of business activity can impact upon the environment. Consider the business
as an open system, taking resources from the environment, converting those resources into
products or services, and consequently generating pollution and waste.

Inputs

Operations

Outputs

Goods

Production

Product

Energy

Maintenance

Pollution

Water

Transport

Waste

Figure 17: Business as a system

The business aspects impact upon the environment is not restricted to the creation of
pollution and waste but also the depletion of the planets natural resources notably fossil
fuels.

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Part 5: Environmental awareness

Pollution
Pollution is defined as the release of a by-product of human activity that causes harm to the
natural environment. Pollution may be released to the air, water or land and includes
pollution caused by noise, heat or vibrations or any other release of energy.
Harm may be caused to human or animal health, the quality of the environment, or material
property.
Any substance or energy source has the potential to be a pollutant under certain
circumstances, e.g. if a dairy discharged large quantities of milk into a river it could consume
the dissolved oxygen in the river and thus kill all the fish.

Source
e.g.

Pathway
e.g. via

accidental
discharge of
milk from a
dairy

drainage
system to river

Target
e.g. fish in
river.

Figure 18: The Pollution Process


The harm caused may be felt locally or further afield. Acid deposition is a trans-frontier
pollution issue, and the release of greenhouse gases and ozone depleting substances have
a global impact.
The harm may be experienced immediately after the pollution incident, e.g. a major oil spill
or may have a slower, cumulative effect that is not experienced for many years e.g. the
build-up of greenhouse gases.
Pollution is typically classified according to the environmental medium (pathway) it passes
through (i.e. air, water or land). It is possible for pollution to pass between media, e.g.
disposing of waste to land contaminates the land. The decomposition of biological waste
liberates methane to air, and materials can also be washed out by rainwater as leachate
which can further pollute water courses.
NB because of the ability of pollution to move between media an integrated approach to
pollution control is required.
The legal framework under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 requires polluting
processes to obtain an environmental permit before they can operate. This enables the
Environment Agency to set operating conditions regarding what volumes of what materials
may be released to land, air or water.
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Air Pollution
The main cause of air pollution is the burning of fossil fuels, in power generation, industrial
use, and motor vehicles.
Major pollutants include:

Oxides of sulphur (SOX) and oxides of nitrogen (NOX) which wash out as dilute
sulphuric and nitric acids i.e. acid rain.

Carbon dioxide which is a major greenhouse gas and

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) which are a local pollutant that can affect
human health.

Water Pollution
Water pollution sources can be categorised as point sources or non-point sources.
Point sources are drains, sewers and ditches. Waste water may be released to the sewer
system or local watercourses intentionally, under the terms of an environmental permit or
accidentally, usually because of incorrect drainage connections or inadequate mapping of
site drainage.
Leaking containers, vehicle oil leaks and spilled materials can be washed off yards by
rainwater or cleaning water into the drainage system and on to local streams and rivers.

Land Pollution
The main land pollution issues are:

Contamination from industrial use; and

Land filling of waste.

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Pollution Prevention and Control


Hierarchical risk management strategies are used to prevent the release of pollutants to the
environment, or otherwise minimise the effects.
Prevention is better than protection, is better than mitigation.

Prevention

Design processes to prevent releases / discharges to air, water or


land.

Reduction

If pollution cannot be prevented levels may be reduced by


improvements to processes and systems.

Response

Should a pollution incident occur emergency responses should be


in place to react quickly and effectively to mitigate the
consequences (e.g. spillage response)

Correction

Lessons should be learnt from experience. After an incident it is


important to review existing controls and make improvements
where possible.

Table 12: Pollution prevention and control hierarchy

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Waste
In its broadest context waste is any input into a business that does not directly contribute to
the manufactured product or delivered service. This would include waste energy and water
as well as wasted raw materials and damaged stock. This waste is business inefficiency
and improving its management results in obvious business benefits.
The narrower, legal definition of waste is that it is any substance or object that is to be
discarded either because it is not useable or because it has reached the end of its useful life.
Effective management of this waste can reduce the demand for new natural resources and
minimise the pollution arising from landfill or incineration.
Reducing the volume of waste requiring disposal is beneficial to the business as it saves
disposal costs and the costs of landfill tax.
The waste management hierarchy is shown in figure 17.

Best

Prevent

Reduce

Reuse

Recover

Redesigning processes to eliminate certain waste


streams

Reduce waste generation at source e.g. Process


modification, inventory control and improved
housekeeping

No additional inputs before reuse.


Reuse in original form e.g. reuse of milk bottles,
chemical containers or waste oils

Recover value, includes recycling materials such as


scrap metal, composting food waste and
recovering energy by burning waste oils

Worst
Dispose

Responsible disposal e.g. landfill

Figure 18: Waste Management Hierarchy


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Duty of Care
All business waste must be stored, transported and disposed of without harming the
environment. This is known as the duty of care.
To demonstrate compliance with the duty of care businesses should:

Store and transport waste appropriately and securely so it does not escape;

Check that waste is only transported and handled by authorised waste transporters;
and

Complete waste transfer notes (WTNs) to document all transferred waste and keep
records for at least two years.

NB there are additional requirements for the disposal of hazardous wastes.

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