As pollution has been increased at an alarming rate, the society has waked up and busy in searching for measures to control pollution. It is irrelevant for which pollution, we are working against. The only focus is to eradicate or bring down the pollution. We will look into the most effective measures to control or prevent pollution.
Initially the focus of pollution control was on cleaning up the pollutants after they were generated. Though there was some improvement brought about by this in the quality of the environment, such regulations sometimes just caused the pollution to be shifted from one environmental medium to another.
As this was realized, it made more sense to follow the path of pollution prevention rather than pollution control. Pollution prevention includes all practices that reduce, eliminate or prevent pollution at its source. This is also known as source reduction.
Pollution prevention helps in saving both financially as well as environmentally. The cost of clean-ups and waste management to the government and the taxpayer is a very heavy monetary price. The damage to the environment and all living beings including humans is another heavy price to pay in terms of health and well-being.
Federal and Corporate Sectors
Preventing Pollution can be applied to every field of pollution generating activity. This includes sectors of energy, agriculture and industry. Government regulatory agencies, local governing bodies and communities have to work together to this end.
In the energy sector, pollution can be reduced by
- Efficient usage of produced energy by the consumer
- Effective ways of storing excess energy.
- Using raw materials or fuels that are environmentally friendly, such as solar, wind and hydro energy.
In the agricultural sector, the approaches include
- Reducing the use of harmful chemical pesticides and fertilisers and switching to an organic way of farming.
- Using water and other chemical in an efficient manner to prevent overuse and runoffs.
- Identifying sensitive areas and protecting them.
In the industrial sector, source reduction is very effective when
- Newer technology and cleaner processes are utilised in manufacturing products to produce less waste.
- Reducing the wastage of raw materials is vital. When raw materials are substances such as metals, paper or glass, recycled material must be considered for use.
- When products and by-products of the processes can be recycled and re-used.
- Having water and energy conservation systems in place.
Governments must set up Regional environmental protection centres and Technical Assistance providers which can help businesses identify products that are safer for human health and the environment. They can guide manufactures and their supply chains to adapt to a greener economy.
Individual and Community Responsibilities
While the responsibility of pollution control falls with governing agencies and industries probably communities also, but the responsibility of the individual must not be taken lightly. Efficient use of energy and water in homes, work places and public spaces will help control pollution to a large extent.
- The simple act of turning the switches off when we leave a room is a good habit to start with. Unplug power chargers whenever they are not in use.
- Use devices such as computers, air conditioners and heaters etc. that are energy efficient at offices and homes. Since energy is need for heating water for various household needs, use water efficient products which save water and energy at the same time.
- Correctly recycle paper, glass, metal and plastics.
- Recycle older electronic devices
- When designing a home or office, plan for efficient lighting. LED bulbs are more energy efficient than regular bulbs.
- Choose to use green products that are manufactured with fewer toxins.
- Leaky pipes must be repaired at the earliest. Shower heads which are water efficient and shorter shower times also save water.
- Don’t let water run while brushing or shaving.
- Instead of leaving the tap open and waiting for the cold water to run, keep some water in the refrigerator to use when needed.
- Use the washing machine with a full load of clothes. Cold and hot water must be adjusted during the wash. Hang out the clothes to dry.
- Compost food wastes whenever possible, instead of disposing.
- When using a dish washer- scrap the dishes before loading instead of rinsing, use the dish washer when fully loaded.
- Use paper bags instead of plastic ones.
- Keep indoor air clean by not smoking indoors. [Read about indoor air pollution]
- Avoid strong chemicals for cleaning and maintaining your spaces, as these can release toxic gases when in use.
- In a household, where 70 per cent of the water is used outdoors, plan the garden or lawn to be water efficient. Watering the plants early in the morning or in the evening ensures more water for the plants and less lost to evaporation.
- In-ground irrigation and drip irrigation are other ways to avoid water wastage in gardens and sporting arenas.
- Grow drought resistant plants indoors and outdoors.
- Instead of hosing off the steps, driveways and sidewalks, sweep them clean.
- To use less water to clean a car, use a bucket rather than the hose.
- Cover a pool to prevent evaporation, when not in use.
- Invest in vehicles that use alternative fuels other than petrol and diesel. Timely maintenance and correct driving techniques reduces greenhouse emissions.
- Use a carpool and reduce the number of vehicles on the road.
Recycling is not technically a part of pollution prevention. It is a process of waste management. But recycling does help reduce the need for fresh raw material in some industries.
Paper, glass, metals, tires and batteries have been part of recycling for a long time. With the increase in use of electronics, it is now important that obsolete devices be taken up for recycling. This is E-cycling. Mobile phones and computers have several rare metals as part of their components that can be extracted and reused in new devices.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Green Engineering is the design, commercialization and use of processes and products in a way that reduces pollution, promotes sustainability and minimises risk to human health and the environment without sacrificing economic viability and efficiency.
According to its principles
- It is best when applied in the early design phase of a process or product.
- All engineering activities are planned with the health of the environment and people who will use it.
- All materials and energy used will be safe, with minimal by-products, using safe chemicals in the processes involved.
- Minimal waste is to be generated
- To achieve sustainability, technologies will be improved, innovated and invented.
- Engineering solutions will be created keeping in mind the local geography, cultures and engaging communities and stakeholders and their development.
As we have seen source reduction is the path best followed for preventing pollution. Through observation and awareness many methods of combating pollution, preventing and controlling it can be practised. Safe living and working spaces, clean air and water, even energy distribution is the right of all. Hence everyone has a responsibility to take part in this process – from the government to the individual. Systematic approaches involving a combination of disciplines, which can look at a problem from various angles to result in a viable solution – from the manufacture of a pencil to the planning an urban space- This is the future of Prevention of Pollution.