UT Studies Industry’s Voluntary Environmental Actions

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Corporations often do more than required to reduce pollution, and the University of Tennessee is launching a study to learn why.

Bruce Clemens, environmental engineer at UT-Knoxville’s Energy, Environment and Resources Center, is heading a $570,000 two-year project on voluntary efforts of steel recycling companies to keep the environment cleaner.

“Some people would say it’s just bottom-line costs and revenues that makes industries work to prevent pollution,” said Clemens, who also is a senior research associate. “But it’s more than just that. There are intangibles, and that is what this study wants to look at.”

Clemens said the intangibles include the type of firm, its management strategy, regulatory pressure from the government, competition and image.

The UT study will look at steel mills which

voluntarily install expensive devices that detect

radioactivity in scrap metal. Clemens said there are no governmental regulations requiring companies to do this.

“Some of them are installing the equipment and some of them are not. We’re trying to find the difference in attitudes and other factors of those that do and those that don’t,” Clemens said. “There is an environmental consciousness in the country that is rising and a lot of decisions are being made because of that.”

Clemens said the amount of steel from recycled sources is about 70 percent and growing, and less steel is being produced from iron ore. There are no laws requiring companies to check for radioactivity of scrap metals, he said.

Clemens said there have been more than 400 cases in the last decade of radioactive scrap metal found by detectors placed voluntarily at steel mills. The U.S. stockpile of radiation-contaminated metals exceeds a million tons, he said.

The UT study will recommend to the steel industry the most effective ways to detect radioactive contamination, Clemens said. The study also will examine how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency might encourage more voluntary programs, he said.

Clemens is also a strategic management student in Business Administration at UT-Knoxville. Working with him are UT-Knoxville graduate research assistants Kai Hii and Paige Parham. Clemens said Dr. Alex Miller, a management associate professor in business administration at UT-Knoxville, also helped initiate the project.

The project is funded by the U.S. EPA, UT and State of Tennessee agencies, Oak Ridge National Laboratories, the Steel Manufacturer’s Association, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Knox Metals and other private companies.

Contact: Bruce Clemens (423-974-4251)

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