Understanding Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production


Related Concepts


Eco-Efficiency was coined by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) in 1992 and defined as the delivery of competitively priced goods and services that satisfy human needs and bring quality of life, while progressively reducing ecological impacts and resource intensity throughout the life cycle, to a level at least in line with the earth's estimated carrying capacity.

However, the concepts of eco-efficiency and Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production are almost synonymous. The slight difference between them is that eco-efficiency starts from issues of economic efficiency which have positive environmental benefits, while Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production starts from issues of environmental efficiency which have positive economic benefits.

Pollution Prevention

The terms Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production and pollution prevention are often used interchangeably. The distinction between the two tends to be geographic -- the term pollution prevention tends to be used in North America, while Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production is used in other parts of the world. Both, Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production and pollution prevention (P2) focus on a strategy of continuously reducing pollution and environmental impact through source reduction -- that is eliminating waste within the process rather than at the end-of-pipe. Waste treatment does not fall under the definition of Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production or P2 because it does not prevent the creation of waste.

Environment Canada defines Pollution Prevention as the use of processes, practices, materials, products or energy that avoid or minimise the creation of pollutants and waste, and reduce the overall risk to human health or the environment.

The US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) defines Pollution Prevention as the source reduction - preventing or reducing waste where it originates, at the source - including practices that conserve natural resources by reducing or eliminating pollutants through increased efficiency in the use of raw materials, energy, water and land. Under the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990, pollution prevention is the national environmental policy of the United States.

Waste Minimisation

The concept of waste minimisation was introduced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1988. In this concept, waste prevention approach and its techniques are defined as on-site reduction source reduction of waste by changes of input raw materials, technology changes, good operating practices and product changes. Off-site recycling by direct reuse after reclamation are also considered to be waste minimisation techniques, but have a distinctly lower priority compared to on-site prevention or minimisation of waste. The waste minimisation concept is used in the Pollution Prevention Directive (1992).

Currently, waste minimisation and pollution prevention terms are often used interchangeably. Pollution prevention means not generating waste in the first place by reducing it at the source. Waste minimisation is a broader term that also includes recycling and other means to reduce the amount of waste which must be treated/disposed of.

Green Productivity

Green productivity is a term used by the Asian Productivity Organization (APO) to address the challenge of achieving sustainable production. The APO started its Green Productivity programme in 1994. Just like Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production, green productivity is a strategy for enhancing productivity and environmental performance for overall socio-economic development.

Industrial Ecology / Industrial Metabolism

Industrial ecology and industrial metabolism are concepts for new patterns of industrial production and are closely related to the Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production concept. Industrial ecology and industrial metabolism are studies of industrial systems and economic activities, and their links to fundamental natural systems. Basically, they aim to imitate the material recycling aspect of an ecosystem - a material flow management is the crucial aspect of these approaches.

Six principal elements of industrial ecology/industrial metabolism:

  1. The creation of industrial ecosystems: maximizing use of recycled materials in production, optimising use of materials and embedded energy, minimizing waste generation, and re-evaluating "wastes" as raw material for other processes.

  2. Balancing industrial input and output to natural ecosystem capacity: understanding the ability of the larger natural system to deal with toxics and other industrial wastes in typical and catastrophic situations.

  3. Dematerialization of industrial output: reducing materials and energy intensity in industrial production.

  4. Improving the metabolic pathways of industrial processes and materials use: reducing or simplifying industrial processes to emulate natural, highly efficient ones.

  5. Systemic patterns of energy use: promote the development of an energy supply system that functions as a part of the industrial ecosystem, and is free of the negative environmental impacts associated with current patterns of energy use.

  6. Policy alignment with a long-term perspective of industrial system evolution: nations working together to integrate economic and environmental policies.