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Re: The real definition
You are right that there hasn't been too much light shed on the history
of the terms. Much of what the public knows is based on the official
public record and the mis-quotes of others.
Source reduction is a subset of waste min. You can achieve source
reduction either through product changes (product substitution, product
conservation, or change in product composition) and by source control
(input material changes, technology changes, or good operating
The other subset of waste min is recycling. Recycling can be achieved
either by use and reuse (i.e., the waste either goes back to its
original process or is used as a raw material for another process) or by
reclamation. The statement you made about volume reduction via thermal
incineration as being waste min is not correct. Thermal incineration
for the sake of disposal is treatment. Thermal incineration for the
recovery of heating value is recycling. The key issues are the heating
value of the waste material and the off-setting of other materials (such
as fuel) in the incineration process. The burning of chlorinated
solvents in a cement kiln is a good example because they provide both
fuel value and chlorine value to the process.
The big bug-a-boo about recycling and P2 is the issue of on-site versus
off-site. With off-site recycling, there is concern over the
mismanagement of the waste. To me, this is a poor reason for excluding
a viable option. There are even some who exclude on-site recycling and
say P2 should be limited source reduction only.
However, this view ignores the fact that we live in a world that
recycles continuously. Do we rule out the use of a filter that allows a
cleaning material to be reused over and over because it is recycling ?
Or do we just change our labeling and call the use of a filter to extend
bath life good operating practice ?
To me, we should be doing what makes the most sense regardless of
definitions or labels. Material substitution is great, as long as there
is a net benefit to the environment. The practice of Life Cycle
Assessment shows that just because we improve conditions at the point of
use, there may be an overall detriment to the environment.
Just some thoughts
From: Ralph E. Cooper, Ph.D.
Subject: Re: The real definition
Date: Tuesday, April 29, 1997 8:54AM
One of the problems in this area is that there is a lot of political
and not much light associated with the history of the terms. Source
reduction is a generic term that relates to activities that reduce the
waste being produced by an activity. Some people equate pollution
with source reduction.
Waste minimization is typically thought of as activities that reduce the
waste being disposed or treated by reuse, recovery, etc. Some people,
including EPA in the 1970s and 1980s, thought of waste minimization as
anything that reduces the amount of waste being disposed in land
units, such that incineration becomes waste minimization. Some treat
use as waste minimization and others do not!
I have an extensive section that was in a text I wrote on pollution
prevention for a seminar short course for managers. If you send me your
address, I will send it to you.
Ralph E. Cooper, Ph.D.
3475 Norwood, Suite N
Shaker Heights, OH 44122-4975
Voice: 216-991-6837 (w/voice mail)