Chapter 3 – How to Write a Pollution Prevention Plan

Step Two: Use a Team

A team approach is recommended for addressing pollution prevention, and those on the team must have the influence or be given the authority to make things happen. Ideally a representative from management would be a team member or attend the team meetings at a regular basis. A team may evolve over time depending on changing circumstances. One way to start forming a team is to look at the organizational structure of the business. In an ideal situation, staff members from various departments would be selected as team members. The following list is of key areas to recruit members and what each could bring to the team:

  • Accounting: Break out costs associated with toxic chemical use and waste generation to educate managers of the financial impacts of using or generating regulated chemicals.
  • Engineering/Design: Evaluate manufacturing products and processes and propose redesign ideas to achieve pollution prevention objectives.
  • Finance: Determine cost-effectiveness and payback for capital-intensive pollution prevention projects.
  • Health and Safety: Evaluate substitute chemicals for employee health concerns. Provide training for other groups so they can become more involved.
  • Maintenance: Evaluate maintenance practices and develop or modify preventive maintenance schedules to minimize or eliminate waste generation.
  • Production: Evaluate production practices to determine how and why wastes are generated and develop ideas for reducing and eliminating waste.
  • Purchasing: Review chemical constituents of new products purchased by a company against an approved list and assist with progress measurement by tracking use of target chemicals through raw material purchases.
  • Research and Development: Develop and use innovative process technology to achieve pollution prevention objectives.
  • Sales: Determine marketing advantages associated with new or modified products that reduce or eliminate waste generation. Get customer feedback on proposed alternatives.

These members would then be responsible for bringing issues to the team that are important for the area they represent. Many facilities have achieved great results in their pollution prevention efforts by involving personnel who work directly with the manufacturing processes being evaluated. They often serve as an excellent source of ideas on how current processes can be improved. In any case, the team must be effective at gathering and analyzing data that leads to the implementation of pollution prevention activities.

The team should consider involving the company’s vendors in the pollution prevention planning process because they have technical knowledge about the chemicals or equipment they supply. They also may have worked with other customers on similar projects and can share information and success stories.  In addition, it may be helpful to include other outside members such as customers that have an interest in the business operation.

Mechanics of Teams

Facilitator: A facilitator helps monitor and keep interactions positive and productive. You can use a member of the team as a facilitator or ask for outside assistance. A facilitator is particularly helpful in the forming and storming stage when team members are getting use to one another and when staying focused on the project is important.
Manage Conflict:  As the team grows so will conflict. Teaching the team ways to handle conflict productively is the key. The facilitator may be a good resource.

Stages of a Team

  • forming stage is characterized by members being both excited and hesitant. Excited to be a part of the group but hesitant due to unknowns about work load and responsibilities.
  • storming stage where tasks appear larger and more time-consuming than expected. Members may feel anxious and frustrated as little progress is made. Members focus on their own strengths and weaknesses as they get to know each other better.
  • As more communication takes place, a norming stage develops when the team starts to function as a cohesive unit. Individual skills, experiences and creativity are recognized and used to solve problems. Things start to happen. Encourage participation: inevitably there will be some members that are more dominant. Make sure all team members pull back at times and allow everyone to be heard.
  • In the performing stage, team goals are being met and results become visible to the whole organization.

Brainstorming and Problem Solving

Brainstorming can be used as a way for a team to creatively and efficiently generate high volume of solutions to a problem through a process that is free of criticism and judgment.

Brainstorming encourages a new way of thinking, gets all members involved, and allows members to build on each other’s ideas.  It is important to establish some ground rules prior to brainstorming.

  • Agree upon a question to brainstorm about. Write this where everyone can see it.
  • No judgment or criticism is allowed during the brainstorming session.
  • Build on the ideas generated by others.
  • Write down ideas as they generated so everyone can see them.
  • Review ideas for clarity. Combine similar items and eliminate duplicates.

Example questions to ask during a brainstorming session include:

  • What is the waste?
  • Where in the process is it created?
  • Why is it created?
  • What can be changed to reduce or eliminate it?

Ending a Team
Identify remaining tasks to be done. Establish a method of monitoring the changes over time. Check outcomes against goals. Communicate changes to staff. Review team for areas of improvement. Celebrate success!

In addition to brainstorming, the team also engages in problem solving. The most important activity in problem solving is to maintain communication among the team members so all members feel involved. As the problem solving process takes place, some obvious problems will be identified. Those can be fixed immediately while the team continues to look upstream in the process for sources of waste.

Throughout the planning process the team will need to document progress as it occurs and problems that arise. Equally important will be to monitor changes in production levels and customer needs, as these can affect the direction that pollution prevention planning takes.

The Minnesota Technical Assistance Program provides assistance in forming and facilitating teams.