Since the industrial revolution, industry has always strived to create machines and processes which make their businesses more efficient and, ultimately, more profitable. The focus is now firmly fixed on ensuring resource efficiency is at the very heart of the way we regulate. SEPA has recently launched a new template and supporting guidance to help operators comply with the requirements for resource efficiency under Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) Part A.
Resource efficiency and what it means
Whether its water, energy or raw materials, the use of our basic resources places pressure on the environment around us which, over time, will start to have a negative impact on planet Earth – the very source we rely on for resources.
Compelling research by the sustainability think tank, Global Footprint Network, illustrates the need for this efficiency now more than ever. Based on the combined output of the World’s carbon footprint its President, Mathis Wackernagel, has calculated that it takes the equivalent of 1.6 planet Earths to support humanity.
In terms of the UK’s footprint, we currently score 2.9 planets. To help reduce the deficit, Scotland can play its part by encouraging businesses find the most resource efficient ways to maximise the output they need, while using less raw material, energy and water.
In the glacial shift towards sustainability, there are clear signs that industrial sectors are already starting to rethink their processes to become more efficient and help reduce and recycle their waste products. Our own CEO Terry A’Hearn is clear on the benefits of tackling resource efficiency for both the environment and the economy:
“Our Statutory Purpose tells us that our job is to protect and improve the environment in ways that, as far as possible, create sustainable economic growth. Resource efficiency will be at the heart of the way we do this, therefore it will be at the heart of the way we regulate.
“Globally, it has been well established for many years that resource efficiency is the best way to drive compliance, prevent pollution and help regulated businesses to reap the commercial benefits of top class environmental performance. By driving improvements in resource efficiency we will be able to showcase what can be achieved in terms of business profitability and environmental gains when a business takes the time to review its process efficiency rather than solely focusing on end of pipe pollution control and waste management solutions.”
In a nutshell, by working with industry to identify improvements in the way we manage our water, energy and raw materials now, we can start to address the 21st century challenges facing our resources. To help drive this shift towards resource efficiency, SEPA has reviewed its approach to help businesses identify what opportunities are available for improvement.
Resource efficiency requirements for PPC Part A activities
SEPA regulates activities under the Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) regime, where the primary focus is to protect the environment from a range of activities such as manufacturing processes, waste treatment and chemical processes. Part A activities tend to be for larger and more complex operations and the permits contain specific conditions regarding emissions to air, land and water, as well as covering issues such as noise, waste minimisation and treatment of on-site effluent (to name a few).
The regulations require operators to take account of the resource use, while demonstrating continuous improvement to become more resource efficient. This includes:
- the prevention of waste generation;
- the efficient use of raw materials (including water) and energy;
- the efficient recovery and recycling of materials from waste.
In order to meet these requirements, operators already carry out an assessment every four years to evidence what steps have been taken to achieve these environmental improvements. To help streamline this process and assist operators, SEPA has developed a new assessment process, designed to explain what is required of them and ensure consistency across all installations currently regulated by a Part A permit in Scotland.
SEPA’s new template for assessing resource efficiency is split into two sections. The first section looks at the activity’s current use of resources and supporting data regarding its level of resource efficiency. The second section then asks operators to actively consider what these data mean and how they could make improvements to the resource efficiency of their process. Opportunities to improve the resource efficiency of a process could include substituting a raw material for a less environmentally harmful substance, using less water in a process, or utilising surplus heat.
The new assessment allows for a more direct discussion between the operator and our officers about what improvements are possible which help to achieve greater resource efficiency. Using the assessment prompts businesses to consider the way their processes operate, and helps to identify new, innovative ways to become more efficient, while also fulfilling the responsibility of the permit holder to demonstrate ongoing improvement. It also reinforces SEPA’s statutory purpose of protecting and improving Scotland’s environment alongside the benefits that resource efficiency brings to the wider economy.
Fundamentally, through engaging with businesses and offering this guidance, we hope to illustrate that resource efficiency brings with it economic benefits– it makes business sense.
- Global Footprint Network
Global Footprint Network is a not-for-profit, independent think tank, whose research measures the impact of human activity on the Earth’s resources.
The research is aimed at shaping decision making which promotes sustainability and the reduction of a country’s Ecological Footprint. Each country’s Ecological Footprint has been calculated based on the amount of resources they currently use, against the capacity of the natural environment to absorb its waste and generate new resources.
For more information on the organisation and its research, check www.footprintnetwork.org.