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Zero Emissions Discharge

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.496.1 - 2.496.6



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Paper Authors

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Elizabeth Goreham

author page

Jack V. Matson

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2251

Zero Emissions Discharge Jack V. Matson, Elizabeth Goreham Penn State University/State College

Introduction Industrial Pollution Prevention courses are proliferating. At last count, three good textbooks and a workbook in homework problems were available. None of these materials deals with the ultimate goal of zero emissions discharge (ZED). Yet ZED is a goal for many industries. This paper defines the issues and problems of ZED, and how it could be integrated into environmental engineering coursework.

Status Reducing emissions from industrial and manufacturing plants to zero is impossible; we all know that. It is an admirable goal, a target to shoot at, but not practical. The last remaining bits of pollution will cost too much to remove from discharges, according to conventional understanding. Is it really true zero emissions discharge (ZED) is an unattainable goal? Or can ZED be implemented reasonably and practically? These are the questions addressed in this paper.

ZED is already in place as policy in a number of environmental venues. For example, the ocean incineration of chlorinated organic chemical wastes has been totally banned in the United States and many European countries. There are also total prohibitions against the manufacture of ozone- depleting chloro-fluoro carbons, ocean dumping of radioactive wastes or sewage sludge, and the exportation of hazardous wastes from the United States7.

In industry, the vocabularies of zero defects and zero inventory and zero emissions suggest a convergence of ideas and goals. ZED can be part of a strategy to maximize resource productivity to enhance industrial effectiveness and performance rather than the traditional view of it as impossible and costing great sums of money. It fits the recent shifts to new and innovative production systems such as lean and agile manufacturing and the high performance workplace.

In a recent industry survey, 16% of major companies in the US indicated they are actively pursuing zero emissions manufacturing. These firms reported that ZED is in its early stages of development and serves as a goal or target rather than an adopted practice or strategy. As a goal, ZED performs the essential function of focusing and motivating quality improvement efforts’.

ZED is the ultimate in sustainable development from an environmental standpoint, because its implementation results in no negative impacts. Buzzelli,’ commenting on the business of environment, delineated six steps to sustainable industrial development: 1. Foster a company culture of sustainability 2. Initiate voluntary performance improvements 3. Apply eco-efficiency concepts 4. Seek opportunities for sustainable business growth Invest in creativity and innovation for the future 2: Reward employer commitment and action

Eco-efficiency in terms of process redesign means scrap materials are collected and reused. Closed loop systems ease a plant’s dependence on water and prevent process discharges into sewers.

Buzzelli perceives environmental sustainability as a potential competitive advantage through opportunities for manufacturers to achieve greater efficiency and productivity. However, it requires a significant paradigm shift from the environment as a cost of doing business to the

Goreham, E., & Matson, J. V. (1997, June), Zero Emissions Discharge Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 10.18260/1-2--6902

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