A key factor in the prevention of environmental pollution, source reduction, commonly known as pollution prevention or waste prevention, is the strategy used in the elimination of waste prior to its creation. In source reduction, it is important that people should refrain from the manufacture, purchase, or use of products and materials that cause pollution or are toxic to the environment when thrown away. In simpler terms, source reduction implies that everything is done to ensure that waste is stopped before it occurs or happens. The invention of modern technology has played an integral role in source reduction, and this means that modern industries recycle or reuse most of their waste products rather than release them to the environment. Through this, environmental pollution has been greatly minimized. Irrefutably, every individual has a role to play in source reduction in every setting or sector. For instance, at home, it is the responsibility of people to embrace strategies and ways of reducing waste, particularly when shopping or when conducting activities in a yard. Persons in offices are also obliged to embrace tips that will help reduce waste while at the same time helping save money. Conversely, retail store operators should also not be left behind in the efforts to promote source reduction, and the accomplishment of this objective depends on their embrace of cost-effective ideas that will in one way or another make their stores more environmentally friendly.
How life cycle analysis can assist in source reduction
Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is of great significance to source reduction, and there are several reasons and factors underlining this. In understanding the trade-offs between the durability, recyclability, source reduction, environmental benefits, and the use of several other recycled materials, it is important that life cycle analysis should be taken into consideration. LCA involves the examination or a serious scrutiny of the resources as well as the products used and by-products generated from the beginning to the end of a product's or process's entire life. Life cycle analysis often begins with an examination of the raw materials to be used in a particular process, the amount of energy to be used in the proves, the manufacture or fabrication of the product, filling, packaging and distribution of the product, as well as consumer's ability to use and reuse the product. LCA ends with the analysis of the management of waste that results from a manufactured product. A key principle of life cycle analysis is that it is a representation of rapidly emerging family of techniques coupled with tools whose designation helps in the management of the environment and the accomplishment of the objective of long-term sustainable development.
Life cycle analysis of products has three components: life-cycle inventory, life-cycle impact analysis, and life-cycle improvement analysis. First, the life-cycle inventory is a process that can be described as objective and data-based, which focuses on the quantification of energy and raw materials that are required in the manufacturing process of a product. The process also quantifies air emissions, solid waste, waterborne effluents, and other materials or wastes released into the environmental in the entire life cycle of a product, that is to say, from its manufacturing process to use in the environment. Apparently, the quantification of the materials released into the environment during the manufacture of a product is of significance or assists in source reduction. Life-cycle inventory would ensure that solid waste, waterborne effluents, air emissions, and other raw materials that are prerequisites in the manufacture of a products are keenly examined, and reused or recycled to prevent their release into the environment that may end up causing its pollution. The second component of LCA, life-cycle impact analysis is a process linked to the technical, quantitative, as well as qualitative assessment of the effects of the environmental loadings or effluents released into the environment from the manufacturing process of a product. One thing about the assessment is that it helps in addressing the human and ecological considerations, and other effects such as pollution that may accompany the release of products into the environment. Addressing the ecological and health considerations as well as effects such as pollution of products released during a manufacturing process implies that every effort is made to prevent the release of materials or substances that will cause harm to the environment and those living in it.
Many a times, addressing the effects and consideration sees manufacturers and other stakeholders in the LCA process push for the recycle or reuse of products. Therefore, the fact that the life-cycle impact analysis component focuses on the consideration and effects of effluents released into the environment; underscore the fact that the life cycle analysis assists in source reduction. A third component of the life cycle analysis is known as the life-cycle improvement analysis, and its assistance and contribution to source reduction cannot be ignored. Life-cycle improvement analysis focuses on the evaluation of the needs and opportunities that aim at the reduction of the environmental burden that are to some extent associated with the use of energy and raw materials in the entire life cycle of a particular product. A key perspective of this component is that it is concerned with the qualitative and quantitative measures of improvements that can be channeled to waste products before they are released into the environment. Some of the measures of improvement that can be channeled to such products include the design of the products, industrial processing, consumption by consumers, and waste management. With these improvement measures, there is no doubt that the life cycle analysis aids or assists in source reduction.
Moreover, during product life cycle analysis, companies and firms manufacturing products for consumption are obliged to come up with or develop policies and systems that ensure that solutions to environmental, health, and safety problems that accompany the release of waste materials and effluents to the environment are provided. For instance, companies have the obligation of coming up with policies that push for the product design, use, reuse, and careful disposition of effluents into the environment. With product life cycle analysis pushing for the development and embrace of these policies, its assistance to source reduction is irrefutable. This is because the policies will aid in the elimination of waste prior to their creation, and this underscores the fact that LCA assists in source reduction.
The barriers to developing plans for source reduction
In the recent years, the efforts targeted at accomplishing the objective of source reduction have been successful. However, there barriers or challenges that jeopardize today's development plans for source reduction. First, technical barriers have for a long time prevented the development of source reduction plans worldwide. The technical barriers have thus resulted in the increase in the concentration of waste materials released into the environment from manufacturing companies. Besides, the lack of quality technical equipment has resulted in the degradation of the quality of products released from the companies into the environment. Thus, there are no efforts put in managing the wastes prior to their release in the environment due to the lack of quality technical equipment. Second, the lack of policies and regulations that force companies to analyze and examine their waste products before releasing them into the environment is a barrier to the development of plans for source reduction. The lack of policies and regulations has given room for companies to carelessly dispose their waste materials into the environment without taking into consideration their effects on health and other factors. Moreover, for stakeholders in the manufacturing sector to embrace source reduction, there must be campaigns and training that will provide an education on the significance of source reduction. Nevertheless, the lack of funds to facilitate the campaigns and training on the significance of source reduction has been a major setback in the development of plans for source reduction. To this effect, international organizations have stepped up their efforts in fighting for the embrace of source reduction by providing financial support to the concerned stakeholders.
In a nutshell, source reduction remains one of the key strategies of helping solve or address the incessant issue of environmental pollution. Primarily, source reduction is concerned with the elimination of waste prior to its creation or release into the environment. It should be noted that life cycle analysis assists in source reduction in various ways. For instance, LCA has components such as the life-cycle inventory that can be described as objective and data-based, which focuses on the quantification of energy and raw materials that are required in the manufacturing process of a product, and through this, aids in source reduction. Other components of LCA that assist in source reduction as discussed in this paper are life-cycle impact analysis and life-cycle improvement analysis. The development of plans for source reduction is strained by a number of barriers such as technical barriers that have thus resulted in the increase in the concentration of waste materials released into the environment from manufacturing companies, the lack of policies and regulations that has prevented companies from analyzing and examining their waste products before releasing them into the environment, and the lack of funds to steer the efforts of developing plans for source reduction.
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