Discharging wastes? Don’t bend the rules

The Toggler blog
Published:  10 December, 2013
The Toggler

Just recently a friend who works in Asia and in the chemical sector told me, “You know, we take water from the river and put it back cleaner than when we extracted it”. No surprises there, but then he went on and said: “Our local competitors have the same gear as us, but only turn it on at inspection time, at other times they have a secret pipe to discharge to the river”. The real surprise was that the local authorities knew this was happening and did nothing about it. In the last few weeks we seem to have had a speight of similar incidents being reported in the trade press relating to the tanning sector – apparently discharging wastes into the environment with disregard to the regulations.

There used to be a concept for processing industries such as tanning that we move dirty or polluting production operations from a tightly legislated geographic zone to a less strict area so that we could discharge wastes and pollution with little regard for the environmental impact. Not only is this a misguided reason to move production from one place to another, it is no longer the case. The requirements in Asian countries that I know are just as strict as, say, the US or EU. What is different is the application of the law or regulations – a law not enforced is not a law! There are many facilities meeting the local strict requirements and incurring the environmental processing cost to meet local requirements (and from the cars the executives are driving, it is not putting them out of business!).

The businesses that are flouting the rules, for whatever reasons (eg knowingly disregarding the rules, cost savings or inept management) have no place in the modern tanning sector. It is quite feasible to make a good leather in a clean way and survive financially – so there is no moral or financial reason to disregard the regulations. I ask you now, if you are disposing of liquid or solid wastes directly into the environment for whatever reason, be a good citizen and think again.

The Toggler