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Waste Management

Waste Prevention

Preventing or reducing waste is typically the least expensive method for managing waste. Waste prevention may also reduce the amount of resources needed to manufacture or package a product.

For example, most roll-on deodorants once came in a plastic bottle, which was inside a box. Beginning about 1992, deodorant manufacturers redesigned the bottle so that it would not tip-over easily on store shelves, which eliminated the need for the box as packaging. This is the type of waste prevention called source reduction. It can save businesses money, while also reducing waste.

Waste prevention includes many different practices that result in using fewer materials or products, or using materials that are less toxic. For example, a chain of clothing stores can ship its products to its stores in reusable garment bags, instead of disposable plastic bags. Manufacturers of household batteries can reduce the amount of mercury in their batteries. In an office, employees can copy documents on both sides of a sheet of paper, instead of just one side. A family can use cloth instead of paper napkins.

Composting grass clippings and tree leaves at home, rather than having them picked up for disposal or municipal composting, is another form of waste prevention. A resident can leave grass clippings on the lawn after mowing (this is known as grass-cycling), or can compost leaves and grass in a backyard composting bin, or use them as a mulch in the garden.

Waste prevention is preferable over recycling or municipal composting programs, because it does not require transportation, processing, and administration. However, waste prevention does have limitations. It will never eliminate waste; it just reduces the amount that has to be recycled or disposed. Waste prevention also is extremely difficult for a government to measure, since waste that is prevented never really existed in the first place. The lack of good data can make it hard for governments to justify spending money on education programs in support of waste prevention. Even though waste prevention is less expensive than other forms of waste management in the long run, local governments and businesses may need to spend substantial amounts over the short term, to provide education about waste prevention or to make changes in operating procedures so that less waste is produced. Waste prevention can also be a valuable tool for managing industrial and hazardous wastes, since disposal of those materials is particularly expensive and heavily regulated.

Farmers can use natural or alternative methods of pest control to replace some or all of their use of pesticides, which in turn reduces the amount of hazardous wastes produced. Many government agencies strongly encourage this. A program started by the province of Ontario, Canada, aims to reduce agricultural pesticide use by 50%.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Verbena Family (Verbenaceae) - Tropical Hardwoods In The Verbena Family to WelfarismWaste Management - History Of Waste Management, Municipal Solid Waste, Agricultural, Mining, And Industrial Waste, Hazardous Waste