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Chapter 6: Addtional Environmental Improvement Opportunities

Printed Wiring Boards Cleaner Technologies Substitutes Assessment: Making Holes Conductive

This chapter of the Cleaner Technologies Substitute Assessment (CTSA) identifies and qualitatively discusses techniques that can be used by printed wiring board (PWB) manufacturing facilities to prevent pollution, minimize waste, recycle and recover valuable resources, and control releases. The Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 set forth the following hierarchy to waste management in order of desirability:

  • Pollution prevention at the source.
  • Recycling in an environmentally safe manner.
  • Treatment in an environmentally safe manner.
  • Disposal or other release into the environment only as a last resort and in an environmentally safe manner.

This hierarchy has been adopted by EPA as the preferred method of waste management to reduce or eliminate potential releases by industry. The hierarchy reflects the common sense notion that preventing pollution is preferable to any subsequent response, be it recycling, treatment, or disposal. By preventing pollution we also eliminate potential transfers of the pollution across media (Kling, 1995).

The hierarchy also recognizes that pollution prevention is not always feasible and that other waste management methods are often required. When pollution prevention is not feasible, we should turn in order to recycling, treatment, and finally disposal if no other option remains. A manufacturing facility often combines pollution prevention techniques with these other approaches to effectively reduce emissions from a production process. While pollution prevention is clearly the most desirable, all of these methods contribute to overall environmental improvement (Kling, 1995).

This chapter focuses on the application of the waste management hierarchy to potential waste streams generated by the making holes conductive (MHC) process of the PWB industry. Techniques are identified, organized, and presented in an order corresponding to the hierarchy. Pollution prevention techniques are presented in Section 6.1, while methods for minimizing waste, recycling or recovering resources, and controlling releases are presented in Section 6.2. While the focus of this chapter is on the MHC line, many of the techniques described here can be applied to other processes used in PWB manufacturing. A series of pollution prevention case studies developed by the EPA DfE Program for the PWB industry present examples of the successful implementation of techniques available to industry (EPA, 1995a; EPA, 1995b; EPA, 1996a; EPA, 1996b; EPA, 1996c).



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