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Source Reduction

As a result of it's pro-active programs, St. Mary's County currently receives 4% out of a total of 5% of the Source Reduction credit(s) offered by the Maryland Department of the Environment. Source reduction is the first priority among waste management options because it has virtually no negative effect the environment, conserves energy and resources, and does not require new facilities. Source reduction simply means making better use of what we buy and throwing away less. Source reduction can be defined as any activity that prevents waste at its source. Reduction practices often save money both directly and indirectly. For example, by using compact fluorescent light bulbs, a business can reduce maintenance, trash and energy costs. Sometimes, projecting long-term costs will determine whether money saved through reduction will offset an initial investment. For example, a school cafeteria considers whether to use reusable trays, which require washing, instead of single-use dishes. The long-term cost of the dishwasher and labor may turn out to be less than the cost of purchasing and disposing of single-use dishes over the lifetime of the reusable dishes and dishwasher.

Source reduction can be readily measured on a product-by-product basis. For each change that is made, costs as well as weight and volume of waste can be determined. If hauling truck scales are used, it is possible to measure the change in an entire facility's waste over time. Measuring the changes in a community's waste is possible, but expensive. However, too much emphasis on measuring may divert money from the actual reduction program. There are other ways to assess the effects of reduction. Surveys can help determine how well people have incorporated source reduction practices into their daily routines. This information may help predict the success of a community source reduction program.

A Source Reduction Checklist

Source reduction is an activity that prevents waste at its source. It is first among waste management options because it has virtually no negative effect on the environment, it conserves energy and resources, and it does not require new facilities. People often want to know which products are best for the environment so they can make environmentally friendly purchases. But determining which products are most environmentally friendly is difficult. Such a calculation must take into account the toxic materials and resources used and the waste produced through:

Gathering and refining raw materials. Manufacturing the products, including construction of the factory where the products are made and the energy needed to make the products. Transporting raw materials and finished products. The consumers' use and disposal of the products. An evaluation this comprehensive is beyond the capabilities of most organizations. However, people can focus on one element: the waste created through their own use and disposal of products. Choosing to produce less waste reduces the need for facilities such as landfills to manage the garbage. Having fewer or smaller facilities means less impact on the environment. What can your Office/Business Do?What can you do at home?

To reduce your waste:

Choose less packaging

Buy refillable bottles of milk, soft drinks, beer and other beverages. Look for products with minimal packaging. Buy the ones with the fewest layers. Bring your own cloth or paper bag when shopping. Reuse plastic bags when buying produce or bulk items. Use reusable storage containers instead of single-use plastic bags. Buy items in bulk to avoid extra packaging and expense. Products available include nails, screws, bolts, cereals, pasta, spices, candy and dried fruit. Avoid individually wrapped items. Buy economy-size packages of products you use a lot. Make a shopping list of items you really need and stick to it. Impulse buying may add to waste. Use products that last a long time before they wear out.

Products that last a long time create less waste, and you will often save money in the long run. Buy well made products that are easy to repair and have long warranties.

Use reusable cloth napkins, diapers and towels. Take a reusable coffee mug to work. Use silverware and heavy-duty, reusable plastic plates and glasses for parties and picnics. Ask for high-mileage tires. They usually cost less per mile traveled. Keep them filled to the proper air pressure for maximum wear. Buy compact fluorescent lights instead of incandescent ones. Clean, maintain and repair your tools, appliances, vehicles, shoes and clothing. Check consumer publications for lists of durable items.

Borrow and rent

Rent or borrow such things as power and hand tools, landscaping equipment, specialized tools, audiovisual equipment, office furniture, medical equipment, baby furniture, ladders and moving equipment. Buy and share equipment such as rototillers or snow blowers with a group of neighbors or friends.

Reuse it

Use glass jars for storing foods, screws and nails, and sewing supplies. Make a kit of twist ties and plastic bags to take along when you go shopping. Save plastic tubs from prepared foods to use as storage containers in the refrigerator and freezer. Use plastic jugs from windshield-washer fluid to collect used oil for recycling. Reuse scrap paper that's printed on one side. Use the blank side for phone messages or notes. Reuse greeting cards by using the front flap as a post card. After you've read a magazine, give it to someone else to read, such as friends, nursing homes, hospitals, schools, doctors' waiting rooms or the library. Save plastic foam peanuts and other packing materials to use with your next fragile package. Save used gift wrap to use again on a smaller package. Cut old bedding, drapes and clothes into pieces for rags, or use them in braided rugs or patchwork designs. Remove nails and hardware from used lumber so it can be reused in smaller projects. Lumber that is not painted or treated can be safely used for firewood. Donate unwanted household items, clothes and appliances that are still usable to charitable organizations. You can also sell them through classified ads, community bulletin boards or garage sales. Buy used or remanufactured products and goods when they will do the job as well as new items. Use your consumer power

If the store where you shop doesn't offer returnable containers or products without needless packaging, ask for them. If the items are not provided, tell the store manager you intend to shop somewhere that does offer these items, and do it. Write to the manufacturers of products you like and tell them that you'd like these items in returnable, recyclable or less wasteful packaging.

Reduce waste at work

recycle bin

Examine the office, production and purchasing procedures where you work to see where wastes can be reduced. Offer incentives to workers to come up with new ways to reduce the company's wastes. Establish a quality control program to reduce wastes in your organization. Buy equipment that is well built and easily repaired. Maintenance contracts can help extend the life of equipment. Old equipment can be sold or donated to others who can use it. Reduce waste paper by circulating and posting memos instead of making copies. Copy documents on both sides of the paper. This will save file space, paper costs and mailing costs while reducing wastes. Reuse inter-office envelopes, file folders, boxes and pallets. Scrap paper can be used for notes or donated to schools and day care centers for use in art projects. Use convenient send-and-return envelopes for billing. The envelope goes out to the customer, who returns it with payment enclosed. Eliminate unnecessary forms, reports and publications to reduce the number that end up being thrown out. Always print or copy double-sided. For your cafeteria, parties and company events, buy or rent reusable glassware, table settings, silverware, table linens and serving equipment. Ask caterers to provide these items.

Steps to Implement a Source Reduction Program

More and more organizations are finding that source reduction – preventing waste at its source – is an essential companion to recycling. Reducing waste is a practical way to reduce both costs and the need for landfills. Source reduction does not require the construction of waste management facilities. What is does require is informed choices. Through the dozens of small choices employees make each day, large amounts of waste can be prevented at the source. The following eight steps can help your organization get started:

  1. Management decides to support source reduction efforts. Upper management must understand the need to prevent waste. By informing employees of cost and environmental waste issues, management communicates its concern and encourages employees to become involved. Management can show its support by:
    • Announcing its authorization for the program.
    • Developing a mission statement and goals.
    • Seeing that regular announcements and recognition take place.
    • Staying involved.
  2. Choose a reduction team. Managers request a volunteer from each department. Purchasing, custodial, maintenance and clerical departments are particularly important.
  3. Choose a facilitator. The facilitator, selected from the team membership, needs strong organizational and communication skills as well as enthusiasm for the project. The facilitator collects information from outside sources, relays definitions and priorities, educates and tracks job assignments for the team.
  4. Educate. Management provides general education on waste issues and program goals. The facilitator educates and inspires the source reduction team by presenting specific information about waste issues. The team surveys the facility's waste and learns about its economic and environmental impact. The team members take what they've learned back to their departments.
  5. Brainstorm source reduction ideas. Though many excellent ideas often come from the reduction team, many more ideas come from the entire staff. No criticism of ideas should be allowed in this step. Make it easy for ideas to flow. Circulation memos or suggestion boxes work well. The following questions can be used for brainstorming.
  6. Evaluate the ideas. Prioritize the suggestions and evaluate them to determine how each suggestion would affect waste and cost. Ninth grade math and a calculator are usually sufficient. With several people researching different suggestions in cooperation with the purchasing department, this step can be accomplished quickly and decisions made as to which ideas to try.
  7. Implement the most promising ideas. Some suggestions can be put into practice immediately. Use these ideas to add momentum to your program. This helps win support for more difficult ideas, those that must be phased in over time. A month after new measures are undertaken, the facilitator asks for comments from the staff on how the actions are working. The team writes up how much waste and cost have changed so far and distributes the information to management and employees.
  8. Continue the program. Source reduction is an ongoing process. Regular announcements about the program help maintain enthusiasm. Give awards for innovative ideas. Inform new employees about the program. Remind staff about the suggestion box. Make sure that everyone hears about all the measures undertaken. Everyone has a part to play in reducing an organization's waste because everyone plays a part in creating waste. Involve everyone in your organization, follow this outline, and chances are your organization will successfully reduce waste and cut costs.

Popular Ways for Businesses To Reduce Waste

Source reduction prevents waste at its source. Here are 14 increasingly popular actions that are reducing waste and saving money for many institutions and businesses: