Where do you start with all the alternatives available to help your organization become more sustainable? What cleantech solutions are the most important? There is a well-established priority – “going up the pipe” – for what to consider first. Start with your options at the top and don’t pursue ones lower down until you have exhausted the higher priorities. From 1993 to 2000 I taught cleaner production methods in Asia and wrote a paper about the methods and results, published in the Journal of Cleaner Production. Below is the hierarchy described in the paper which you can download here.
The Cleaner Production Hierarchy: Issues and Solutions
1. Cost Accounting
1.1. Cost Awareness and Responsibility
Business people ALWAYS underestimate the true cost of waste and pollution. Training needs to focus on identifying all the costs of waste and pollution, especially including the value of lost raw materi-als. Participants can build cost inventories in group discussions and identify reasons why costs are not accounted for.
1.2. Baseline Environmental Costs
Establishing a factory environmental cost baseline provides the basis for determining where prevention will be most cost effective. Participants can discuss approaches to doing a current costs study.
1.3. Cost Analysis and Activity-Based Allocation
When baseline costs are known, they must be allocated to responsible parties. Activity-based costing pro-vides accountability by process. Participants can discuss the management issues in allocating waste costs to the waste generators.
1.4. Forecasting and Budgeting
Long-term forecasting is critical for environmental cost management and cleaner production. Participants can identify trends in regulation and technology and develop timelines for expected future ex-penses.
2. Source Reduction: Strategies to reduce materials use
2.1. End Product Design
Changing the design of the product can significantly reduce pollution. Using a classroom product such as an overhead projector, participants can identify design changes that would reduce the pollution from its manufacturing.
2.2. Toxic Chemical Substitution
Replacing a toxic chemical ingredient with a non-toxic substitute can eliminate the need for treatment at the end of the pipe. Water-based paints are a good example for use in training.
2.3. Reduced Chemical Concentrations
By reducing concentrations of particular chemicals, treatment to manage them can be reduced.
2.4. Purchasing Control
Purchasing should include environmental criteria and evaluation of the environmental performance of suppliers. Participants can identify types of waste generated through purchasing practices, such as packaging of purchased goods.
2.5. Distribution Control
Tight control over chemical distribution within the company reduces wastage and accidents. Participants can discuss inventory management systems they use effectively.
2.6. Water Conservation
Most companies use more water than really necessary, and therefore have to treat too much wastewater. Participants can identify common examples of water wastage. The full cost of water can also be discussed.
Preventing spills and leaks, and keeping a cleaner plant, reduces accidents and spills. Participants can share their shop floor management strategies.
3. Waste Reduction: Strategies to reduce generation of waste
Benchmarking identifies the best performance standards among competitors. Participants should share their knowledge of cleaner production strategies in their industry and how they might obtain more information.
3.2. Process Training
Small investments in training of process operators can produce big improvements in process efficiency and reduced waste. Yet training is often under-utilized. Participants should examine the obstacles to training and how to overcome them.
Improving equipment maintenance can significantly reduce pollution generation by stopping leaks and spills and reducing wash-down needs. More frequent maintenance improves production efficien-cy. Participants can develop a comparison of the costs of more maintenance vs. the costs of downtime and waste due to lack of maintenance.
3.4. Improve Process Control
Simple process control equipment such as float valves, flow meters and sensors can significantly reduce production errors that lead to waste. Participants can identify production steps that are manually controlled and what kinds of automated controls would be effective replacements.
3.5. Change Process Design
Changing the layout or steps in a process can often reduce water needs and waste generation. For exam-ple, the use of three-step counter-current rinsing has greatly reduced water use in thousands of electroplating companies. Lots of examples are the best training tool for this topic.
3.6. Equipment Improvement
New equipment that is more efficient reduces the generation of waste from the process. The savings from reduced treatment may quickly offset the cost of new equipment. Participants need to relate the cost of new equipment to the total cost of waste and pollution control created by the existing equipment.
4. Recycling: Strategies to re-use or regenerate materials
4.1. Waste Stream Segregation
When waste streams are segregated or kept apart at the process level, they do not contaminate each other and create a single large problem. Participants can draw process waste diagrams and identify where large mixed waste streams are created, and consider the options for managing the waste streams separately.
4.2. Closed-Loop Recycling
Segregated waste streams can sometimes be recycled directly back into the process through a closed-loop system, thereby eliminating all waste from the process step.
Often, wastes can by re-used elsewhere in a factory, or even by nearby businesses, without treatment. Cooling waters and non-toxic cleaning waters can almost always find other uses. Participants can identify ways to capture and store reusable wastes.
Sometimes wastes must be re-processed to recycle them. For example, evaporators can recover almost all the water from some waste streams and the water can be reused. Simple technologies such as distillation and filtration should be explained.
It may be possible for a business to give wastes to others who can use them. Participants can list their waste types and discuss other industrial uses for them.
5. Treatment: Strategies to convert or process wastes into profitable materials
5.1. By-Product Recovery
If waste streams contain potentially valuable materials, recovering the materials before final treatment may be cost-effective by offsetting the cost of treatment chemicals. Recovered materials can be re-used or sold. Participants should consider the value of raw materials in the waste streams.
5.2. Waste Conversion
Additional processing can turn an existing waste stream into a brand new product. Many examples should be used here.
Please suggest improvements to this hierarchy below.