Businesses:  Do step-by-step waste analysis

Step 1:
Define problem

Select a target to analyze for source reduction potential.  The target should be any component of your organization's waste stream - a specific kind of paper, glass, wood, plastic or chemical.


Target for reduction those components that appear in your waste stream in significant quantities, have a low product to package ratio or are likely to impact the environment negatively.

Step 2:
Come up with options

You have quite a few options to help reduce the waste.  For non-durable goods, consider these:

For durable goods, evaluate these additional options:

Step 3:
Evaluate options of effectiveness

Consider all the options that apply to the product you're evaluating.  You may be surprised which ones work out to be most preferred.

As you evaluate substitutes, be sure to test their performance and consider their comparative toxicity, cost and any other environmental trade-offs.  The "cure" could be worse than the disease.

Step 4:
Take obstacles into account

While you're brainstorming about alternatives that will cut your solid or toxic waste, think through what might be obstacles of using them.   Some you might encounter include:

Step 5:
Perform formal feasibility analysis

Once you've narrowed the list of source reduction options, perform a technical and economic analysis on each technique selected.

Answer these questions to complete your technical evaluation:

--Is space available?
--How long will it take to deliver and install?
--What sort of testing is required before installation?
--Are utilities already available?
--Will it change work flow and/or production procedures?
--Will product quality be affected?
--How will production be affected?
--What training is required to operate and maintain the new system?
--Will the new equipment require additional storage or material handling?
--What's the warranty?
--Can it be easily serviced?
--Will it meet environmental and worker health-and-safety requirements?

Capital costs include costs for process equipment, construction materials, site preparation, installing, utility hook-ups, engineering, permitting, training, start-up and cost of capital itself (interest costs).   Operating costs include costs for raw materials, maintenance, supplies, labor, utilities, waste transportation, disposal, storage and waste-handling.

Your goal is to determine incremental operating costs -- or actual operating costs of the existing operation minus estimated operating costs projected with the source reduction option.  When that difference is a positive number it means there is a decrees in operating costs as a result of the source reduction measure.  This difference is referred to an an incremental operating cost savings.

Generally, you'll implement lower cost options first.  Some source reduction options require no economic evaluation because there are no capital costs and the option will result in a net operating cost savings.  If the option requires significant capital costs, perform the economic evaluation using a standard measure of profitability -- most often, pay-back period.  The formula for calculating pay-back period is:


Total capital cost of project

Annual net operating cost savings

Cost & Benefits Worksheet

Source Reduction Worksheet

Source Reduction Options for Business