Pollution prevention in Oregon's electronics industry Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/9306t269t

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  • Pollution prevention is promoted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other governmental agencies as a method of reducing the generation of wastes and pollutants. Pollution prevention is also called source reduction because it reduces wastes early in the production process. Source reduction has been used by some industries to comply with governmental regulations and decrease costs associated with the management of hazardous materials. Nationally, the electronics industry generates a large quantity of hazardous waste. Similarly in Oregon, the electronics industry has recently been identified by the DEQ as one of the top five polluters in the state. The purpose of this research was to identify pollution prevention strategies that are currently being used by the electronics industry in Oregon and to assess the industry's interest in switching to less hazardous practices. A questionnaire was distributed to 180 businesses, which included all industries affiliated with the Oregon Electronics Association and additional electronics firms listed in Oregon phone directories. From those responding to the survey, the results indicated that electronics organizations in Oregon manufacture a wide variety of products including circuit boards, cable assemblies, software, laser equipment, printers, and control panels. Over half of those participating in the survey reported that the largest quantity of hazardous materials were generated early in the manufacturing process. Forty-seven percent of the respondents indicated they had attempted incorporating less hazardous compounds to those used previously. Common problems encountered which discouraged the industry from switching to less hazardous products or processes were revealed by the participants to include: The new product/process did not work as well (37%), did not believe current practices were harmful (18%), cost factors (14%), pressure from governmental agencies (3%), and other factors (28%). Fifty percent of those responding revealed that their company recycles materials within the facility. Participants indicated the products which were most likely to be recycled included cardboard (19%), office paper (18%), tin/aluminum (13%), newspaper (12%), and used chemicals (11%). The largest number of participants (43%) defined "green" or "environmentally safe/friendly" products as those that contain no known hazardous chemicals. Using this chosen definition, sixty-five percent of those responding indicated their organization did use these "green" products. It was indicated by those returning completed surveys that one reason the industry has attempted to incorporate less hazardous products and processes into their production process is primarily because of long term financial benefits. Other factors influencing the use of less hazardous materials included ethical concerns and the desire to find safer products that work as well as current products. A vast majority of respondents indicated more should be done in the area of pollution prevention and want leadership to come from within the industry itself. It is recommended that top executives in this field meet to share methods of overcoming obstacles to pollution prevention, clarify current terminology as it relates to new products, develop a system of rewarding those who are engaging in pollution prevention activities and promote technology transfer.
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