Banning single use plastics

At Erco Safety we are not only concerned about the safety of the workers, we are also concerned about the safety of our environment.

Plastics and polystyrene are two of the most abundant materials that are having the biggest impact on our environment. 

Items made of plastic can take up to 1000 years to break down in our landfills.  Plastic bags take 10-1000 years to decompose and plastic bottles can take 450 years or more to decompose.  Very slowly lawmakers and citizens concerned for the environment are taking steps to reduce our dependency on plastic items.  For example Chile was the first country in Latin America to ban the commercial use of plastic bags.  The legislation was enacted in August of 2018 and businesses were given 6 months to phase out the use of plastic bags.  The total ban took effect February 3, 2019.

In December of 2018 the organization called The Balance Small Business wrote an article on The Decomposition of Waste in Landfills.  In this article it was stated that not only does it take a 1000 year for plastic to decompose it also takes 1.6 million barrels of oil just for producing plastic water bottles.

This article also stated that polystyrene does not biodegrade, which means all the styrofoam cups and take out containers in the landfills and discarded on the side of the road will never decompose.  Currently there are no viable programs in place to recycle products made of polystyrene.  In a number of countries there are other options to polystyrene containers and cups.  For instance containers made of recycled materials and other items like sugar can pulp.   

Decomposing time for other items included in the article are disposable diapers.  In the US 18 billion disposable diapers are thrown away annually.  These diapers take approximately 250-500 years to decompose.

Aluminum cans are recycled in America, every minute of every day more than 120,000 cans are recycled. However, every three months enough aluminum cans are thrown away that can rebuild the entire American commercial air fleet.  Aluminum cans take 80-200 years to completely decompose.

Normally glass is easy to recycle by breaking down the glass and melting it which can produce new glass.  Glass that is through in the landfill can take millions of years to decompose.

The largest element in American landfills, based on volume, is paper waste.  Paper waste decomposes in 2 to 6 weeks, but if we recycled these items it would save a lot of landfill space with items that are easily recycled.

The article goes on to list other waste items deposed of and how long it takes them to decompose.  The cigarette butts that are on our streets and beaches take 10-12 years.  Monofilament fishing lines that are cut and left in our oceans take 600 years.   Rubber tires take 50-80 years to decompose.  Batteries take 100 years and tin foil does not biodegrade.  These are time frames for waste to decompose in a landfill.  When these items are discarded onto the side of the road they will take even longer to decompose.

So what is it going to take to reduce and remove society’s dependency on these products?  North American has been addressing this issue for decades which started with education, legislation, enforcement and programs to address the waste.  However, society cannot just rely on lawmakers and program developers.  Each citizen needs to do their part.  As long as there is a demand for these products they will be produced.  I spend the majority of my year in a warm third world country.  For the people of the Dominican Republic the change needs to start with education and programs to provide alternatives.  Currently a number of employers provide their workers with a meal when they work more than 6 hours a day.  The majority of these meals are provided to the worker in a polystyrene container.  The concept of trash cans is relatively new in the DR and the majority of the polystyrene containers seem to end up on the road side.  There are a number of organizations that have begun with the education aspect of this problem.  These groups are meeting with members of the community, municipal leaders and educators to begin the promotion of reduce, reuse and recycle.  There are a number of organizations that are encouraging citizens to collect plastic beverage containers and pack them with garbage to make plastic bricks.  One organization is going so far as to offer 20 pesos per plastic brick.  These bricks are being used to build facilities in the barrios like a medical facility and a school. 

What are steps we can take to reduce the use of single use plastics?  For one when you go shopping take reusable produce and shopping bags.  For bulk items take your own containers.  When going out to eat take your own take out containers.  There are a number of options available to consumers to reduce their reliance on plastics and polystyrene it just takes a little effort and commitment from everyone to do their part in reduce, reuse and recycle to save our environment for now and generations to come.  Please do your part.

Decompositions rates Information was obtained from https://www.thebalancesmb.com/how-long-does-it-take-garbage-to-decompose-2878033.

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Information required when requesting a COR audit quote

It is the time of the year that businesses begin their search for COR Auditors.  Whether it is your company’s first certification, re-certification or maintenance audit, when you are requesting a quote there is important information you should provide in order to receive an accurate quote from suppliers.

  1.  Who is your Certifying Partner.  Most auditors are certified to conduct audits with more than one Certifying Partner.  It is important to provide the name of your Certifying Partner as each CP has their own audit tool.  Time preparing the final audit report can vary according to the audit tool being used.  You will also want to ensure the auditor you choose is certified to conduct your audit with your current CP.
  2. What type of audit do you require.  Is this audit being conducted to receive your first COR, to re-certify or a maintenance year audit.  The process and time frame for the audit is the same however if this is the certifying audit, most auditors will ensure the company has all the required training and met the initial requirements prior to providing a quote for services.
  3. How many employees work for the company.  Audit protocols set the number of interviews required by the number of employees.  The number of interviews required must be know to determine the amount of hours that must be scheduled for conducting interviews.
  4. How many sites or locations does the company have.  Audit protocols set the number of sites that are to be included in the scope of the audit.  Depending on the number of sites, not all sites are included in the scope of the audit.  Head office must be included each year, the other sites are included on a rotating basis.  Each site included in the scope must be visited during audit activities.  Travel time and expenses are included in quotes and therefore this information is important.
  5. Where are the required documents kept.  A number of businesses keep the majority of their documentation at their head office.  Auditors must know how much time they will require to spend at each site reviewing documentation.  There are certain documents that are reviewed at all sites visited, even if the majority of the documentation is located at the head office.  Examples include emergency response programs and inspections should be available at each site visited.

Each auditor may have additional questions to be answered before a quote is provided, but these are the basic questions that must be answered to ensure an accurate quote.  The majority of the auditors will determine the amount of time required by the number of locations visited and the number of employees interviewed to calculate the number of hours and days it will take to conduct the audit and price their quotes accordingly.

In addition auditors will need to schedule time to conduct observations.  Observations are done when documentation and interviews are completed.  This is the third method of verification and auditors are looking to see that actions noted in documentation or interviews has been completed.

To ensure the quotes you receive are accurate it is important to provide as much information as possible.

An additional tip is when possible conduct your audits early in the calendar year.  Many businesses wait until the fourth quarter of the calendar year to conduct their audits.  This can make it hard to find auditors to meet your requirements and may increase the time an audit takes to pass Quality Assurance Review, due to the number of audits the CP receives during this time.  Conducting audits earlier in the year also provides the business the opportunity to make corrections and re-audit in the rare case a limited scope audit is required.

I hope these tips are useful and wish you all success in your COR audit process.

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