Traditionally, waste is viewed as an unnecessary element arising from the activities of any industry. In reality, waste is a misplaced resource, existing at a wrong place at a wrong time. Waste is also the inefficient use of utilities such as electricity, water, and fuel, which are often considered unavoidable overheads.
The costs of these wastes are generally underestimated by managers. It is important to realize that the cost of waste is not only the cost of waste disposal, but also other costs such as: – disposal cost, purchase cost of wasted raw material, production cost for the waste material, management time spent on waste material, lost revenue for what could have been a product instead of waste and potential liabilities due to waste.
What is Biomedical Waste Minimization?
Biomedical waste minimization can be defined as “systematically reducing waste at source”. It means:
- Prevention and/or reduction of waste generated
- Efficient use of raw materials and packaging
- Efficient use of fuel, electricity and water
- Improving the quality of waste generated to facilitate recycling and/or reduce hazard
- Encouraging re-use, recycling and recovery.
Waste minimization is the process and the policy of reducing the amount of waste produced by a person or a society. It involves efforts to minimize resource and energy use during manufacture. For the same commercial output, usually the fewer materials are used, the less waste is produced.
Waste minimization usually requires knowledge of the production process, cradle-to- grave analysis (the tracking of materials from their extraction to their return to earth) and detailed knowledge of the composition of the waste.
Waste minimization is also known by other terms such as waste reduction, pollution prevention, source reduction and cleaner technology. It makes use of managerial and/or technical interventions to make industrial operations inherently pollution free. It should be also clearly understood that waste minimization, however attractive, is not a panacea for all environmental problems and may have to be supported by conventional treatment/disposal solutions.
Processes of Biomedical Waste Minimization
1. Resource Optimization
Minimizing the amount of waste produced by organizations or individuals goes hand-in-hand with optimizing their use of raw materials. For example, a dressmaker may arrange pattern pieces on a length of fabric in a particular way to enable the garment to be cut out from the smallest area of fabric.
2. Reuse of Scrap Material
Scraps can be immediately re-incorporated at the beginning of the manufacturing line so that they do not become a waste product.
Many industries routinely do this; for example, paper mills return any damaged rolls to the beginning of the production line, and in the manufacture of plastic items, Off-cuts and scrap are reincorporated into new products.
3. Improved Quality Control and Process Monitoring
Steps can be taken to ensure that the number of reject batches is kept to a minimum. This is achieved by increasing the frequency of inspection and the number of points of inspection.
For example, installing automated continuous monitoring equipment can help to identify production problems at an early stage.
4. Waste Exchanges
This is where the waste product of one process becomes the raw material for a second process. Waste exchanges represent another way of reducing waste disposal volumes for waste that cannot be eliminated.
5. Ship to Point of Use
This involves making deliveries of incoming raw materials or components direct to the point where they are assembled or used in the manufacturing process to minimize handling and the use of protective wrappings or enclosures.
Classification of Biomedical Waste Minimization (BWM) Techniques
The waste minimization is based on different techniques.
1. Source Reduction
Under this category, four techniques of BWM are briefly discussed below:
Good Housekeeping–Systems to prevent leakages & spillages through preventive maintenance schedules and routine equipment inspections. Also, well-written working instructions, supervision, awareness and regular training of workforce would facilitate good housekeeping.
ProcessChange: Under this head, four CP techniques are covered:
Input Material Change – Substitution of input materials by eco-friendly (non-toxic or less toxic than existing and renewable) material preferably having longer service time.
BetterProcessControl– Modifications of the working procedures, machine-operating instructions and process record keeping in order to run the processes at higher efficiency and with lower waste generation and emissions.
EquipmentModification– Modification of existing production equipment and utilities, for instance, by the addition of measuring and controlling devices, in order to run the processes at higher efficiency and lower waste and emission generation rates.
TechnologyChange– Replacement of the technology, processing sequence and/or synthesis route, in order to minimize waste and emission generation during production.
On-Site Recovery and Reuse – Reuse of wasted materials in the same process or for another useful application within the industry.
Production of useful By-product – Modification of the waste generation process in order to transform the wasted material into a material that can be reused or recycled for another application within or outside the company.
3. Product Modification
Characteristics of the product can be modified to minimize the environmental impacts of its production or those of the product itself during or after its use (disposal).
Importance of Biomedical Waste Reduction
In affluent countries, the main motivations for waste reduction are frequently related to the high cost and scarcity of suitable sites associated with the establishment of new landfills, and the environmental degradation caused by toxic materials in the deposited wastes. The same considerations apply to:
- Large metropolitan areas in developing countries that generally are surrounded by other populous jurisdictions, and
- Isolated small communities (such as island communities).
However, any areas that currently do not have significant difficulties associated with the final dispositions of their wastes disposal pressures can still derive significant benefits from encouraging waste reduction.
Their solid waste management departments, already overburdened, are ill- equipped to spend more funds and efforts on the greater quantities of wastes that will inevitably be produced, if not otherwise controlled, as consumption levels rise and urban wastes change.
Key Concepts in Municipal Waste Reduction
Action for waste reduction can take place at both the national and local levels.
At the National Level
- Some strategies for waste reduction include:
- Redesign of products or packaging
- Promotion of consumer awareness and
- Promotion of producer responsibility for post-consumer wastes.
At the local level
- The main means of reducing waste are:
- Diversion of materials from the waste stream through source separation and trading
- Recovery of materials from mixed waste
- Pressure on national or regional governments for legislation on redesigning packaging or products and
- Support of home composting, either centralized or small-scale.
Household Waste Minimization
Waste minimization at household level can be achieved by the adoption of a variety of strategies. But in a domestic situation, the potential for minimization is often dictated by lifestyle. Some people may view it as wasteful to purchase new products solely to follow fashion trends when the older products are still usable.
Adults working full-time have little free time, and so may have to purchase more convenient foods that require little preparation, or prefer disposable nappies if there is a baby in the family.
Appropriate amounts and sizes can be chosen when purchasing goods; buying large containers of paint for a small decorating job or buying larger amounts of food than can be consumed create unnecessary waste. Also, if a pack or can is to be thrown away, any remaining contents must be removed before the container can be recycled
Home composting, the practice of turning kitchen and garden waste into compost can be considered waste minimization. Individuals can reduce the amount of waste they create by buying fewer products and by buying products which last longer.
Mending broken or worn items of clothing or equipment also contributes to minimizing household waste
The amount of waste an individual produces is a small portion of all waste produced by society, and personal waste reduction can only make a small impact on overall waste volumes. Yet, influence on policy can be exerted in other areas.
Increased consumer awareness of the impact and power of certain purchasing decisions allows industry and individuals to change the total resource consumption. Consumers can influence manufacturers and distributors by avoiding buying products that do not have eco-labelling, which is currently not mandatory, or choosing products that minimize the use of packaging
Where reuse schemes are available, consumers can be proactive and use them.
Systems of Biomedical Waste Reduction
1. Industrialized Countries
Perhaps in no field of municipal solid waste management are the differences between the industrialized countries and the developing countries so apparent as in waste reduction and materials recovery.
Rising overall living standards and the advent of mass production have reduced markets for many used materials and goods in the affluent countries whereas, in most of the economically developing countries, traditional labor-intensive practices of repair, reuse, waste trading, and recycling have endured.
Thus, there is a large potential for waste reduction in economically developing countries, and the recovery of synthetic or processed materials is now being emphasized.
Public or consumer financing of the full range of initiatives for waste reduction (from changes in manufacturing and packaging, to waste reduction audits to identify waste reduction opportunities) are practiced by several affluent industrialized countries.
One of the main motivations, from the point of view of municipal authorities, is to reduce materials that must be collected and deposited in landfills.
At the national level, under the concept of producer responsibility, governments have created agreements and legal frameworks designed to reduce the generation of waste.
For instance, industry is given responsibility for achieving certain levels of packaging reduction goals of a certain percentage within a given time period.
2. Developing Countries
In many developing countries, waste reduction occurs naturally as matter of normal practice because of the high value placed on material resources by the people, as well as other factors.
Consequently, reuse of a variety of materials is prevalent. The motivations for materials reuse in developing countries include: scarcity or expense of virgin materials; the level of absolute poverty; the availability of workers who will accept minimal wages; the frugal values of even relatively well-to-do households; and the large markets for used goods and products made from recycled plastics and metals.
Wastes that are of no use in affluent societies and cannot be recycled have value in developing countries e.g. coconut shells and dung used as fuel. If one takes into account the use of compost from dumps sites as well as materials recovery, in countries like India, Vietnam, and China, the majority of municipal wastes of all kinds are ultimately utilized.
Waste reduction that could be achieved by legislation and protocols (such as agreements to change packaging) is not, at present, a high priority in these countries, although some are now moving in this direction.
Because unskilled labor costs are low and there is a high demand for manufactured materials, manufacturers can readily use leftovers as feedstock or engage in waste exchange.
Residuals and old machines are sold to less advanced, smaller industries. Public health is benefiting from plastic and boxboard packaging that reduces contamination of foods and much of the superior packaging is recovered and recycled.
In offices and institutions, cleaners and caretakers organize the sale of paper, plastics, etc. At the household level, gifts of clothes and goods to relatives, charities, and servants are still significant in waste reduction.
All cities and towns have markets for used goods. However, the greatest amount of materials recovery is achieved through networks of itinerant buyers, small- and medium-sized dealers, and wholesaling brokers.
The extent to which the waste trading enterprises are registered (formalized) varies in developing regions: in Latin America and Asia, there is more formal registration than in Africa.
The system is adaptive to market fluctuations, as the lowest level workers form a dispensable labor cushion: they must find other work, if they can, when there is reduced demand for the materials that they sell.
From the point of view of waste reduction, the traditional practices of repair and reuse, and the sale, barter, or gift-giving of used goods and surplus materials are an advantage to the poorer countries. Quantities of inorganic post-consumer wastes entering the MSW stream would be higher if these forms of waste reduction did not exist.
In conclusion, biomedical waste minimization involves all processes and techniques applied to preclude as much as possible or reduce to the barest minimum the occurrence of waste and wasteful situations in the production, distribution and use of any product and services.
Waste minimization strategies are applied at different levels especially in the industries during product design and production and continue up to the consumer level.
At the consumer/household level, discrimination as to what to buy and in what quantity, product quality, re-use or recycling etc. are some of the major considerations to be taken to minimize waste. Household waste minimization or reduction is influenced by level of knowledge, socioeconomic status and lifestyle.