Stopping Waste at the Source

by Roger L. Price, Manager of Special Projects; Center for Hazardous Materials Research, Univ. of Pittsburgh Applied Research Ctr., Pittsburgh, PA,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1990, Vol. 60, Issue 4, Pg. 67-69

Document Type: Feature article


Contrary to popular belief, waste reduction at the source, rather than end-of-the-pipe waste treatment may the nation's best approach to the hazardous waste problem. Surprisingly, the secret for cutting waste at the source lies with attitude adjustment not pie-in-the-sky-technology. The old attitude that environmental compliance costs too much must give way to a new attitude that waste reduction is a sound investment both ecologically and economically. Many businesses have been using waste-reduction programs instead of waste treatment with impressive results. Waste reduction for these companies has varied from 20% to as high as 98%. Payback periods on investments have varied from immediate payback to five years. Most importantly, data indicates that waste generation can be further reduced by another 50% with existing technology. Techniques for waste reduction include waste audits, waste segregation, waste reuse, recycling and exchange and simple substitution of materials during production. In addition, process modification at the production plant may reduce waste. This includes resetting or replacing equipment and switching from man-labor to automation.

Subject Headings: Waste treatment | Hazardous wastes | Recycling | Waste management | Investments | Ecosystems | Economic factors | Audits

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