Though the term has been around for many years, ‘P2’, or Pollution Prevention, would seem to perfectly mesh with a current global trend for both businesses and consumers alike, that of environmental sustainability. Yet one fundamental difference between P2 and more widely accepted environmental initiatives is ultimately holding it back from a more widespread acceptance and adoption.
The difference, though seemingly innocuous on the surface, can translate into significant sums of money for manufacturers, regardless of operational size or geographical location. The concept of recycling, from waste assembly material to the final product itself, is predominantly concerned with the end of the production cycle, the output. Whether used by the manufacturers themselves, or sold and outsourced to another company, recycling can not only just reduce costs, it can actively lead to alternative revenue streams.
P2 on the other hand isn’t focused on the output, but the input. If waste is being generated through the manufacturing process, why leave it until the end to take out, why not remove it to start with? To make changes at the beginning of production can often require more in-depth analysis and expertise than manufacturers have in-house, necessitating the involvement of third-party specialists, the cost of which many would rather avoid. Another fear facing manufacturers is not whether or not quality and efficiency can be kept the same with a lower amount of raw materials, but how much it will cost to either invest in new or upgrading existing machinery and equipment to do so.
While recycling can become quite lucrative in a relatively short amount of time, the environmental benefits take slightly longer to manifest themselves. P2, though applicable for many manufacturing operations and processes, is especially focused on reducing the use, and therefore waste, of the industries more hazardous materials, such as gases, acids and other harmful chemicals. So, though P2 may require considerable initial outlay, with the benefits not being felt until further down the line, the environmental remunerations are more immediate and easier to see.
With governments having to face the reality of the lofty environmental targets they have set themselves, more around the world are creating resources and incentives to help subsidise manufacturers wishing to embrace P2. The one positive outcome from the global economic downturn is that many manufacturers were forced to reassess current practices and operations, in the process becoming leaner, more efficient, cost-effective and open to change. These two factors combined could result in P2 finally becoming as established and common-place as other waste management techniques, applying reduce, recycle, reuse to the whole production process, rather than solely the end.