Every year, millions of tons of waste are generated from both households and building construction, most of which end up in landfills with a small percentage being recycled. Thus, there is a great need for waste minimization as this will not only have a huge environmental impact but also present substantial economic and social benefits.
Waste minimization entails limiting the amount of waste that is generated, thereby helping to eliminate the production of persistent and harmful wastes, effectively supporting efforts that promote a society that is sustainable. Thus, waste minimization involves a change of societal patterns that relate to production and consumption as well as redesigning products to eliminate the generation of waste.
According to the University of California,
“Waste Minimization is reduction in the quantity of hazardous wastes achieved through a conscientious application of innovative or alternative procedures. Simple adjustments to a process producing wastes (e.g. a teaching lab experiment, a vehicle cleaning operation, etc.) may be the only requirement to achieve some results. However, looking at the broader picture in the University environment, it is often difficult to recognize waste reductions due to the complex and changing growth patterns within the campus community. Reductions are often offset by increased staff and student growth and/or building construction.“
Benefits of Waste Minimization
While it is obvious that waste minimization supports sound business and economic practices in addition to protecting the environment, other benefits include the following:
- Improved product quality – New technological practices and innovation will not only reduce the generation of waste but also contribute to improved input quality that translates to improved products.
- Economic benefits – Efficiency in product use translates to reduced costs when purchasing materials, thus significantly affecting financial performance.
- The efficiency of production practices – Waste minimization will attain more output of the product for every part of raw material.
- Environmental responsibility – eliminating or minimizing the generation of waste will make it easy for you to achieve environmental policies, standards and regulations.
- Public image – Embracing waste minimization will boost the reputation of your company, as it is a reflection of proactive movement in the quest to protect the environment.
- Change in RCRA regulatory status – Waste minimization helps a company to change its RCRA regulatory status from a large quantity generator to a small quantity generator or conditionally exempt small quantity generator.
- New customers –People love to buy their goods from companies that are dedicated to improving our environment. Some consumers exclusively seek these organizations out, so you have an opportunity to reach a wider audience. It brings in new customers and generates new money. This is due to your commitment to protecting the environment.
- Fewer Accidents – It reduces the occurrence and likelihood of worker exposure and workplace accidents.
- Protect the environment – Waste minimization increases the efficiency of production. You are able to reduce carbon, air, and water emissions while you work to conserve natural resources. Thus it saves resources and energy, reduces pollution, and diminishes demand for landfill space. All these boost environmental performance.
- Stay ahead of the competition – Reducing waste both in the final product and the manufacturing process, decreases regulatory burdens associated with disposal. More time and money allow you to invest in new ideas and products.
3 R’s of Waste Minimization
Waste minimization revolves around three R’s as follows:
This calls for using resources that are just enough to cater to your needs, for instance, building a smaller house. This is an effective way of conserving resources as it also lowers the costs. This can be achieved through attaining accuracy when ordering to ensure that there is no waste or no material is sitting on the site for long periods that it is damaged.
Here, you will do well to reuse existing materials and buildings, effectively reducing the need for resources while lowering waste volumes and saving money. A huge percentage of resources are incorporated in the construction of homes owing to the mixed materials that are used, yet the end destination for most of them is landfill.
Thus, renovating a house is a much better option than bringing it down to put up another one because a negligible fraction of the old house may be reused/recycled.
Using leftover resources or those resources that have reached the end of their life minimizes the need for new materials as well as lowers the volume that ends up in landfills. Thus, it is advisable to use materials that are recyclable as this creates a market for the resources that are recycled while also raising the price that recyclers pay for resources that are recovered even as the recycling viability increases.
Waste Minimization Techniques
1. Optimization of resources
In order to reduce the quantity of waste that is produced by individuals or organizations calls for the optimization of raw materials used in production. For instance, a dressmaker will do well to arrange the pieces of pattern in a certain way along the length of the fabric to use a small portion of the fabric.
2. Scrap metal reuse
Incorporating scraps into the initial stages of manufacturing is a surefire way of ensuring that they do not end up in landfills as waste products. A majority of industries embrace this process, effectively returning rolls that are damaged to the initial production line and in the manufacturing of offcuts, plastic items so that scrap is re-incorporated in the new commodities.
3. Quality control improvement and process monitoring
Measures can be put in place to control the number of rejects and ensure it is at a minimum. This may be achieved through increased frequency of inspection as well as increasing the number of inspection points. For instance, the installation of a continuous monitoring device that is automated will help in identifying production problems before they get to an advanced stage.
4. Exchange of Waste
Here, the waste products from one process are used as raw materials for other processes. Exchange of waste is another means of minimizing waste disposal volumes, especially for waste that may not be eliminated.
5. Shipping to the point of use
Here, raw materials as well as other components, are directly delivered at the point of assembly or manufacturing plant ostensibly to minimize handling and use of enclosures and protective wrappings.
6. Zero waste
This systems approach is designed to eliminate waste from the source as well as at every point of the supply chain to ensure that no waste is produced. This design philosophy places emphasis on waste prevention and not waste management at the end of the production line.
7. Reduce the Use of Packaging Materials
Start with reducing the use of packaging materials like shrink wrap by redesigning packages to use recyclable or degradable materials. This redesign will not only allow your company to hone in on a newer look and feel but also ensuring your packages do not end up in a landfill. Even if they reach the landfill, you will be happy to know that your material will degrade without causing any harm to the environment.
8. Reduce Harmful Wastewater
Implement a strategy at your facility to reduce the wastewater and industrial sludge that is a byproduct of manufacturing while also reducing the amount of water used during this process since these materials are hard to treat and dispose of. Decreasing the amount of wastewater and sludge will help save money while disposing of the waste properly. Additionally, you will help conserve natural resources and reduce the potential for environmental contamination.
9. Hold Your Employees Accountable
In order to reduce the amount of waste your employees generate, hold your employees accountable to this as well. You can devise a plan that will encourage employees to be environmentally mindful both in and out of the workplace. For example, praise and reward employees that bring their own reusable mugs, cups, plates, and flatware instead of using single-use tableware. In this way, your organization can make the claim that you have made significant steps towards a greener future.
10. Update Your Recycling Program
Another step is to improve your own recycling program. Help employees to get into the habit of properly disposing of materials by creating an internal goal for every month. This goal can be based on the amount of waste your employees or departments recycled, and if they meet the goal, reward them in some way to encourage them to keep up the good work.
You can also place specially designed bins in the higher traffic areas and clearly label each one.
11. Waste Minimization for Households
Households can practice waste minimization by employing various techniques. One of the ways to achieve this is by purchasing adequate sizes and amounts of food. Purchasing large containers of paint when taking small decorating jobs or purchasing large volumes of food than you need will result in wastage. For instance, where cans or packs may be thrown, the remains of the containers should be removed to allow for recycling of the container.
Home composting, thoughtful use of electricity as well as reducing the number of car journeys is also a great way of waste minimization. Generally, buying fewer products or products that last longer, mending worn or broken equipment or clothing, can also minimize household waste. Additionally, households can also minimize wastage of water and cycle or walk to various destinations as opposed to using cars, thereby saving on fuel.
Overall, the personal waste reduction will have an effect on the general waste volumes. Consumers may also shun products without eco-labeling.
12. Waste Minimization in Building Construction
An assessment of streams of waste shows that energy savings may be achieved at minimal cost or no cost within the construction sector. Consequently, the environmental impact of materials may be reduced significantly with reuse.
While at it, it is important to ensure you work with the concerned authorities that include local councils, regional waste authorities, landfill operators or waste recycling contractors. Some of the construction materials that may be recycled include steel, aluminum, gypsum plasterboard, timber, concrete, glass, carpet, plastics as well as bricks and tiles.
It is important to put in place waste minimization strategies that have been agreed upon by both parties. A team approach is highly effective in reducing waste.
13. Assess Your Processes
Lastly, always conduct a waste assessment at your facility. This requires examining what waste is generated and how that waste is managed throughout your facility. The technical evaluation also determines whether a proposed Waste Minimization option will work for the specific application. It will help to find new opportunities for waste reduction and cost savings.
Erich Lawson is passionate about saving the environment by effective recycling. He has written a wide array of articles on how modern recycling equipment can be used by industries to reduce monthly garbage bills and increase recycling revenue. You can learn more about environment savings techniques by visiting Northern California Compactors, Inc blog.