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Controlling pollution


Environmental Pollution
Types of pollution
Air pollution
Water pollution
Soil pollution
Controlling pollution
Government action
Scientific efforts
Business and industry
Environmental organizations
The growth of pollution
Progress in controlling pollution
Current environmental issues
The Clean Development Mechanism
Global warming
Reducing emissions (REDD)
Swine Influenza
Heart Attack

Controlling pollution

Controlling pollution depends on the efforts of governments, scientists, business and industry, agriculture, environmental organizations, and individuals.

Scientific efforts. Increasing concern over environmental protection has caused scientists and engineers to look for technological solutions. Some research seeks ways to clean up or manage pollution. The goal of other research is to prevent pollution. Many industrial researchers are finding more economical ways to use fuels and other raw materials. As a result of their research, some European cities now use waste heat from power plants or trash incinerators to warm homes. New automobile engines burn gasoline much more cleanly and efficiently than older engines. Researchers have also developed automobiles that use such clean-burning fuels as methanol (a type of alcohol) and natural gas. In Brazil, some cars use another type of alcohol, called ethanol, as fuel. Scientists are also developing cars that can use hydrogen gas as fuel. Hydrogen creates almost no pollution when it is burned.

Scientists and engineers are also researching ways to generate electric power more cheaply from renewable energy sources, such as the wind and the sun, causing little or no pollution. Large fields of windmills, known as wind farms, supply about 1 percent of California's electric power and more than 2 percent of Germany's. Devices called photovoltaic cells convert sunlight directly into electric power. Using such cells, a photovoltaic power plant in Sacramento, California, produces enough power for 1,000 homes.

Business and industry. Many companies have discovered that it makes good business sense to pollute less. Some have found that reducing pollution gives them a better public image and saves money. Others have developed environmentally safe products or packaging to satisfy consumer demands. Still others develop pollution control systems because they believe that laws will eventually force them to do so anyway. Some companies limit pollution merely because the people running them choose to do so.

In the past, the disposal of wastes was relatively inexpensive for most businesses. Today, legal waste disposal sites have become increasingly scarce in many areas. Regulation of certain types of waste has made their continued production extremely costly. As a result, many businesses have found ways to produce less waste or recycle the materials that they use. Manufacturers may use a minimum of packaging and choose packing materials that can be recycled. Lighter and less bulky packaging means distributors use less fuel transporting the products. In addition, the consumer throws out less packaging and creates less garbage.

Many businesses specialize in different types of pollution management. For example, some pollution management firms develop devices that remove harmful particulates from smokestack emissions. Particulates can be captured by filters, by traps that use static electricity, or by devices called scrubbers that wash out particulates with chemical sprays. The business of reducing and cleaning up pollution is expected to be one of the fastest growing industries of the future.

Other businesses assist companies in following government orders to clean up pollution. Some firms manage recycling or energy conservation programs. Still others help businesses develop less-polluting processes.

Regardless of why or how industries begin to clean up pollution, it will be a slow, expensive process. Many businesses rely on the cheapest production methods available, even though such methods pollute. When the cost of cleaning up the pollution created by current production methods is added to manufacturing costs, however, methods that pollute less may prove more economical.

Some businesses have learned to work together to reduce their pollution. Waste materials from one industry can be used as a raw material by another industry. For example, a power plant in Kalundborg, Denmark, sells gypsum captured from burning fossil fuels to a nearby wallboard factory. It also sells ash to a cement manufacturer and steam to other nearby factories and homeowners. By sharing materials, industries can reduce pollution and waste while profiting from the exchange of resources. A field of study called industrial ecology explores these and similar opportunities related to reducing the impact on the environment from industrial and economic sources.

Marian R. Chertow, M.P.P.M., Director, Industrial Environmental Management Program, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
Source :
World Book 2005