Cleaner production in the dairy industry

Cleaner Production is a preventative approach to environmental management that encompasses eco-efficiency, waste minimisation and pollution prevention. Cleaner Production is a forward-looking, 'anticipate and prevent' philosophy. Cleaner Production does not deny growth; it merely insists that growth be ecologically sustainable (UNEP 2004). In this context, waste is considered a 'product' with negative economic value. Each action to reduce consumption of raw materials and energy, and reduce generation of waste, increases productivity and creates financial benefits. The definition of Cleaner Production adopted by UNEP (2004) is as follows:

Cleaner Production is the continuous application of an integrated preventive environmental strategy to processes, product and services to increase overall efficiency, and reduce risks to humans and the environment. For production processes, Cleaner Production results from one or a combination of conserving raw materials, water and energy; eliminating toxic and dangerous raw materials and reducing the quantity and toxicity of all emissions and wastes at source during the production process.

The dairy industry is beginning to recognise the value of applying Cleaner Production strategies to improve the sustainability of operations by reducing waste and implementing more efficient processes. UNEP (2000) released a major document providing guidelines for manufacturers wishing to apply Cleaner Production strategies. These guidelines categorised Cleaner Production techniques into the following areas: improved housekeeping, process optimisation, new process technology, and new product design.

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