Why businesses should care more about pollution control

If a business fails to control pollution appropriately, those responsible could go to prison. Alternatively, they could face unlimited fines. Even if they escape those, the business will probably still need to pay to put right the damage. In short, pollution control is important. Here is what you need to know.

The basics of pollution

Pollution is any harmful substance which gets into the natural environment, such as the ground, the air or the water. Even natural substances can be pollutants. For example, salt is a natural substance and many people use it to clear their paths in winter. Unfortunately, the salt is often washed away when the ice melts and contaminates the water supply. It is therefore a pollutant.

Degrees of pollution

Some activities inevitably entail a serious risk of pollution. The transportation of hazardous waste is possibly the most obvious example of this. These activities generally need to be carried out under licence for that exact reason.

Permits are, however, generally only needed where there is a high risk of serious pollution. The rest of the time companies are expected to use their common sense and apply reasonable precautions. What this means in practice will depend on the situation, but here is some general guidance.

Air pollution

Most air pollution is caused by burning. Some is caused by chemicals. Relatively few companies use direct incineration. Those that do will need to follow legal guidance on their usage. In most cases, air pollution will be caused either by transportation or by heating/cooling, especially refrigeration units.

Both of these are subject to legal standards. These are, however, minimum requirements not targets. Businesses might therefore want to see what they can do to improve on them. This can gain a lot of goodwill from modern customers.

Ground pollution

Ground pollution is generally caused by leaks and spills. This means that preventing them is essentially about managing the storage and transportation of materials. Depending on the nature of your business, this could mean anything from arranging secure underground storage for strong chemicals to making sure your staff understand how to seal and carry containers properly.

Water pollution

Any business which operates near a source of water, natural or man-made, needs to take great care to avoid run-off. Any business which regularly disposes of liquid waste needs to ensure that drains are only used when it is safe to do so.

Some businesses will require the use of oil separators or other waste treatment systems. These all need to be maintained regularly to stay effective. Oil separators are vulnerable to failure if they become contaminated with detergent. This can be a particular issue for businesses which clean and service motor vehicles.

Vegetable oils and fats (such as butter) can also be a source of water pollution as can fibrous waste. The former is more of an issue in catering. The latter may be an issue in hospitality (or childcare). Often the key to preventing this is to offer staff and/or customers an easy alternative way to dispose of their waste.

Peter Watson