Sources Of Background Information On Waste Minimization Options

FIG. 3.2.4 Sources of waste.

Trade associations As part of their overall function to assist companies within their industry, trade associations generally provide assistance and information about environmental regulations and various available techniques for complying with these regulations. The information provided is especially valuable since it is industry-specific.

Plant engineers and operators

The employees that are intimately familiar with a facility's operations are often the best source of suggestions for potential waste minimization options.

Published literature Technical magazines, trade journals, government reports, and research briefs often contain information that can be used as waste minimization options.

State and local environmental agencies

A number of state and local agencies have or are developing programs that include technical assistance, information on industry-specific waste minimization techniques, and compiled bibliographies.

Equipment vendors Meetings with equipment vendors, as well as vendor literature, are useful in identifying potential equipment-oriented options. Vendors are eager to assist companies in implementing projects. However, this information may be biased since the vendor's job is to sell equipment.


Consultants can provide information about waste minimization techniques. A consultant with waste minimization experience in a particular industry is valuable.

In assessments using the weighted-sum method, follow-up meetings are held after brainstorming sessions. The meetings begin with an open discussion of the options. Sometimes, a team concludes that an option does not really reduce waste and removes it from the list. At other times, the team combines interdependent options into a single option or subdivides general options into more specific options.

After the team agrees on the final option list, they generate a set of criteria to evaluate the options. When the criteria are adopted, the team assigns each one a weight, usually between 0 and 10, to signify its relative importance. If the team feels that a criterion is not an important process or is adequately covered by another criterion, they can assign it a value of 0, essentially removing the criterion from the list.

After the weights are established, the team rates each option with a number from 0 to 10 according to how well it fulfills each criterion. Multiplying the weight by the rating provides a score for that criterion; the sum of all scores for all criteria yields the option's overall score.

The weighted-sum method has some potential pitfalls. An option can rank near the top of the list because it scores high in every criteria except probability of success or safety. However, an unsatisfactory score of these two criteria is enough to reject an option regardless of its other merits. High scores achieved by some impractical options probably indicate that the assessment team has used too many weighted criteria.

Another problem with ranking and weighting is that many options cannot be evaluated quickly. Some options must be better defined or require laboratory analysis, making ranking them at a meeting difficult.

Weighting and ranking meetings are not entirely fruitless. Often discussions about an option provide a basis for determining its technical and environmental feasibility.

One of the simpler tools offered by the EPA is to classify options into three categories: implement immediately, marginal or impractical, and more study required.

Other tools can be used to quickly screen options. These include cost-benefits analysis, simple voting, and listing options' pros and cons.

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