The first step in establishing a waste minimization strategy is to conduct a waste audit. The key question at the onset of a waste audit is "why is this waste present?" The environmental engineer must establish the primary cause(s) of waste generation before seeking solutions. Understanding the primary cause is critical to the success of the entire investigation. The audit should be waste-stream oriented, producing specific options for additional information or implementation. Once the causes are understood, solution options can be formulated. An efficient materials and waste trucking system that allows computation of mass balances is useful in establishing priorities. Knowing how much raw material is going into a plant and how much is ending up as waste allows the engineer to decide which plant and which waste to address first.
The first four steps of a waste audit allow the engineer to generate a comprehensive set of waste management options. These should follow the hierarchy of source reduction first, waste exchange second, recycling third, and treatment last.
In the end, production may be abandoned because the product or resulting by-product poses an economic hazard that the corporation is not willing to underwrite. These include cases where extensive testing to meet the TSCA (Toxic Substance Control Act) is required. Other such cases include the withdrawal of pre-manufacturing notice applications for some phthalate esters processes, and the discontinuation of herbicide and pesticide production where dioxin is a by-product.
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