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Waste reduction is a set of processes and practices intended to reduce the amount of waste produced. by reducing or eliminating the generation of harmful and persistent wastes, waste minimization supports efforts to promote a more sustainable society. Waste minimization involves redesigning products and processes and/or changing societal patterns of consumption and production.
The most environmentally resourceful, economically efficient, and cost-effective way to manage waste often is to not have to address the problem in the first place. Managers see waste reduction as a primary focus for most waste management strategies. Proper waste treatment and disposal can require a significant amount of time and resources; therefore, the benefits of waste minimization can be considerable if carried out in an effective, safe and sustainable manner.
Traditional waste management focuses on processing waste after it is created, concentrating on re-use, recycling, and waste-to-energy conversion. Waste reduction involves efforts to avoid creating waste during manufacturing. To effectively implement waste reduction the manager requires knowledge of the production process, cradle-to-grave analysis (the tracking of materials from their extraction to their return to earth) and details of the composition of the waste.
The main sources of waste vary from country to country. In the UK, most waste comes from the construction and demolition of buildings, followed by mining and quarrying, industry and commerce. Household waste constitutes a relatively small proportion of all waste. Industrial waste is often tied to requirements in the supply chain. For example, a company handling a product may insist that it should be shipped using particular packing because it fits downstream needs.
Waste minimisation can protect the environment and often turns out to have positive economic benefits.
Waste minimisation can improve:
- Efficient production practices. Waste minimisation can achieve more output of product per unit of input of raw materials.
- Economic returns. More efficient use of products means reduced costs of purchasing new materials improving the financial performance of a company.
- Public image. The environmental profile of a company is an important part of its overall reputation and waste minimisation reflects a proactive movement towards environmental protection.
- Quality of products produced. New innovation and technological practices can reduce waste generation and improve the quality of the inputs in the production phase.
- Environmental responsibility. Minimising or eliminating waste generation makes it easier to meet targets of environmental regulations, policies, and standards. The environmental impact of waste will be reduced.