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Today’s waste management has developed several ways of waste disposal methods in trying to contain the ever-growing size of civilization’s refuse materials. Waste management through minimization of waste materials shows great promise.
This is because in waste minimization, control and management would go back to the waste producers themselves (individual persons, companies, manufacturers, factories) and not only on the waste materials.
Traditionally, waste management processes the waste material after it has been created. From there, other waste management systems take place: re-use, recycling, composting, incineration, energy conversion, etc.
Waste minimization takes the process one step further back. It actually is one system that includes the process itself and the policy of simply reducing the amount of waste generated to the barest minimum by the primary producer itself – a single person or a company.
The main sources of waste vary from country to country. In developed countries in Europe, most waste comes from the manufacturing industry, agriculture, construction and demolition industries. In developing or under-developed countries, a big part of waste comes from the households and society at large.
Waste minimization processes
The following are some of the waste minimization processes at work these days.
• Both waste minimization and resource maximization of products can begin at the design stage. A product’s number of components can be reduced to make it easier to take apart for repairs or recycling. At the design stage, a product may be steered away from using toxic materials, or reduce its volume.
• Minimization of waste and maximization of resources again go hand-in-hand in optimizing the use of raw materials. Patterns for a dress can be cut in such a way that there is a minimum of unused portions in the clothing materials.
• Another way is the reuse of scrapped materials back into the production process. In industries like paper manufacture, damaged rolls and other scraps are returned and incorporated again to the paper-making process. In plastics manufacture, cut-offs and other scraps are re-incorporated into new products.
• This is for products specifically designed for its intended use. Packaging materials will be a waste if for reasons of, say cost-cutting, the quality is reduced and the food it is intended to protect is spoiled instead.
• Through improved quality control and monitoring, the number of product rejects is kept to a minimum. Increasing inspection frequency and the number of inspection points via automated and continuous monitoring equipment is now integrated into existing systems.
• Shipping raw materials directly to the places of manufacture reduces accidents, less protective wrappings and enclosures and other safety measures and devices designed for long circuitous handling and shipment.
Benefits and other considerations
Waste minimization is related to the efforts of minimizing the use of resources and energy by way of fewer materials and efficient designs, for instance.
This also entails thorough knowledge of the production process, continuous tracking of the material’s life cycle from cradle (extraction/creation) to grave (waste). This is feasible in large manufacturing industries starting from the plants to the stores all the way to the consumer.
Today, waste management is employing waste minimization as yet another reliable ammunition in the fight against pollution and environmental hazards in the complex business of waste disposal and management.