The materials and substances that you use in your business all have an impact on the environment. By carefully selecting your raw materials you can reduce this impact and reduce your costs.

What you must do

You must store and handle raw materials carefully at all stages of processing and manufacture. If you cause pollution to air, land or water, or risk causing damage to the environment, you are committing an offence.

Use safety data sheets

A safety data sheet (SDS) must accompany any material supplied to you that contains hazardous substances. The SDS gives information on how chemicals should be handled, stored and disposed of.

If you use chemicals or chemical products you must make all staff aware of the SDS for any hazardous substance or mixtures that they handle, store or dispose of. If you receive a chemical without a SDS, contact your supplier to find out whether or not they have to provide one.

Store substances to avoid pollution

Oil and chemicals can be particularly damaging to human health and the environment. You must store and handle these appropriately to prevent pollution.

Oil storage

Chemical storage

Make sure that your material handling and storage areas do not cause air, noise or water pollution.

Air quality

Noise and vibration

Solvent emissions

Waste storage and transport

Good practice

Selecting raw materials

Audit the materials that you use in your process. If you use any hazardous substances consider using alternative less hazardous materials and practices. For example:

  • if you buy pulp, use reputable suppliers and only use elemental chlorine free (ECF) and totally chlorine free (TCF) grades
  • don't use timber, wood chips or hemp that have been sprayed with harmful substances such as lindane or pentachlorophenol (PCP)
  • use pesticide-free feedstock
  • environmentally friendly adhesives are now widely available, try to find one that meets your requirements
  • use water-based coatings in place of solvent-based ones
  • use biocides that degrade rapidly, eg guanidine and isothiazolones
  • use chemicals with high biodegradability, eg use DTPA as a chelant in place of EDTA or NTA
  • if you use sodium hydroxide (NaOH), use low mercury NaOH
  • don't use alkylphenol ethoxylates
  • don't use elemental chlorine
  • if it is compatible with the paper specification, you should use chalk rather than clay as a filler, as chalk retains water more efficiently.

Consider sourcing materials that are certified by an ecolabel or logo. Products displaying an ecolabel must meet strict requirements covering a range of environmental impacts. See our guidance on buying sustainable goods and services.

Consider the whole life cycle of the materials that you source, including the impacts of the raw material, your production process, the final product and its disposal. For example, is the material delivered in reusable packaging, does the material reduce the amount of waste that you produce, does the material reduce the amount of energy or water that your process requires?

Select materials that make it easier for you to minimise, reuse and recycle your waste. For example, if your grade of paper will allow, use materials delivered in pulpable bags.

Use your raw materials to maximum benefit to reduce the amount of waste that you produce. See our guidance on waste reduction, reuse and recycling.

Contact your suppliers for help with choosing materials.

For more guidance on how to manage and reduce your environmental impact see our guidance on managing your environmental performance.

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