The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) describes waste minimization as "source reduction practices that reduce or eliminate waste generation at the source; and environmentally sound recycling practices, where source reduction is not economically practical." Waste minimization is a prevention strategy rather than an "end-of-pipe" treatment strategy. The reduction or elimination of waste generated at its source is the priority.
FirstEnergy has a long-term commitment to waste minimization, source reduction and environmentally sound recycling. This effective program protects the environment, while also creating positive economic value for our company. Examples include:
- Upgrades in FirstEnergy's computer systems enables effective management of inventories. Purchasing only the amount of material needed reduces cost and eliminates waste.
- Our coal generation plants generate over two million tons of ash annually. Approximately half of the ash is recycled into a variety of products including concrete, structural fills, stabilizing materials, and concrete by-products. We continue to look for new ways to reuse this material.
- At the Bruce Mansfield Plant, 450,000 tons of scrubber sludge per year is used to make gypsum which is then used to make wallboard. This program not only eliminates waste streams, but also provides useable products.
- A program of evaluating and repairing transformers and other electrical equipment at three electrical equipment repair shops dramatically reduces new equipment purchases.
- When reuse is not practical, recycling is pursued whenever possible. FirstEnergy has programs for recycling metals including copper, aluminum and steel throughout its system. Over 50 waste streams are recycled rather than discarded, including batteries, cardboard, lubricating oil, paper, street lamps, wood products, and other materials.
- Substitution by less hazardous materials when possible benefits both the environment and FirstEnergy's employees who might be exposed during use. Programs to eliminate the use of hazardous solvents are in place, substituting less hazardous materials with recycling as a goal in the selection of the replacement material (example, substitution of the solvents used in parts washers).
To implement a waste minimization strategy, FirstEnergy has a Corporate Waste Minimization Team. The goal of the Team is to identify waste minimization opportunities, support the implementation of a minimization plan and quantify the effectiveness. The team members are drawn from purchasing, operations, environmental and other workgroups to provide a broad view of the Company's day-to-day activities.
FirstEnergy also is an active participant in the U.S. EPA's WasteWise Program which recognizes the efforts of participants for their waste minimization efforts. The photos below illustrate some of the efforts described above.