Cleaner Production

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Since the late 1980s, several developed countries have made major public sector commitments to build awareness of cleaner production, also referred to as pollution prevention and waste minimization. These commitments, most notably in Denmark, the Netherlands, the U.K. and the U.S., have led the private sector to investigate and implement pollution prevention measures for existing processes and products. As a result, cleaner production is now seen in these countries as a potentially cost-effective complement to pollution abatement in meeting environmental standards.

There have been several efforts to transfer the experience of developed countries in this field to developing countries. All of these efforts are examples of technology transfer (i.e., the transfer of knowledge, skills, equipment and so on) to achieve a particular objective: the reduction of pollution intensity in the industrial sector of developing countries.

1.6.1 Barriers to Cleaner Production

National pollution control programs implemented by UNIDO aim to influence national policies on the reduction of industrial pollution in developing countries as well as to change the approach of individual entrepreneurs to this problem.14 National environmental policies for the reduction of industrial pollution consist of discharge standards and implementation schedules based on the pollution abatement potential of end-of-pipe technologies. They do not recognize the considerable potential of source reduction for meeting discharge standards and for minimizing the costs of installing and operating pollution abatement technologies. In turn, enterprises, particularly small and medium enterprises (SMEs), are not concerned about environmental matters (or even waste minimization), and when they are confronted with government regulations respond in one of two ways.15 Either they make no investment in end-of-pipe technology, claiming that it is impossible given their financial situation, or they install the technology to signify compliance with environmental regulations and then fail to carry out the necessary operational and maintenance activities that would actually reduce pollutants.

These national policies and entrepreneurial approaches reflect the dominant strategy for industrial environmental management in developed countries. Primary reliance on end-of-pipe pollution abatement has been the basis for industrial environmental management in most developed countries since the late 1970s. Although it has been effective in reducing pollution from major sources and in many situations was the only way to meet regulatory deadlines, end-of-pipe treatment has been an expensive approach and has not managed to reduce pollution from all sources. More recently, some developed countries, and industries in those countries, have been calling for cleaner production as the first choice for reducing pollution, including that from the industrial sector. Although a few companies recognized the importance of the preventive approach in the 1970s, only in the late 1980s did governments in a few developed countries begin to encourage its general application.

The problem for environmental management institutions and industrial establishments in developing countries (and in developed countries as well, but to a lesser extent) is that they are not aware of the potential of preventive measures, such as the reduction of excess process inputs and the utilization of nonproduct outputs to meet environmental norms. In some cases, these countries do not have information about cleaner production techniques and technologies and in other cases they do not have the professional staff that can convey the information or adapt it to a given industrial situation. In still other cases, they do not think that cleaner production techniques and technologies are appropriate for their situations, because they are heavily invested in pollution control technology.

The limited utilization of cleaner production techniques and technologies in developing countries, in spite of their significant potential for waste minimization because of old and inefficient equipment, has a number of causes16,17:

1. A legislative and regulatory regime that does not assign priority to cleaner production

2. Confusion over the difference between cleaner technology and end-of-pipe control

3. A lack of knowledge (or awareness) of the financial and environmental benefits of no-cost and low-cost changes, primarily good housekeeping but also small modifications to existing equipment

4. The unsuitability of some techniques and technologies for developing countries or for certain types or sizes of industry

5. The lack of information about process-specific technology options

6. A broken supply chain for many simple source-reduction technologies

7. The perception by enterprises that local environmental consulting engineers and research institutions provide inappropriate advice and information

8. A lack of technical personnel at the plant level to install and maintain techniques and technologies

9. Costs of the technology (usually not a significant constraint)

10. Cultural factors

11. The slow rate of new investment among SMEs, which lowers the rate of diffusion of new technologies

1.6.2 Program as a Response to Barriers

The Environment and Energy Branch of UNIDO and the Industry and Environment Program Activity Centre of UNEP supported pollution control programs in approximately 20 countries over a five-year period. UNIDO/UNEP played a coordinating and catalytic role in cleaner production by being a source of information on cleaner production, supporting demonstrations of cleaner production techniques and technologies, training industry and government officials, and providing policy advice on environmental management. They worked primarily with SMEs15 in the private sector, which became the core of a network of institutions and trained local experts involved in pollution prevention activities.

The programs did several things to facilitate the transfer of technical information and technology from developed to developing countries17:

1. They disseminated information on cleaner production by serving as an information clearing house, publishing newsletters and holding marketing seminars in order to increase awareness.

2. They conducted sectoral and cross-sectoral in-plant demonstrations of cleaner production to show the potential of waste minimization in the country.

3. They trained in-plant personnel and consulting engineers on how to conduct waste reduction audits in order to increase the in-country capacity for such activities.

4. They prepared and distributed country-specific technical reports (a waste audit manual in the appropriate language, sector-specific guidelines and fact sheets) to allow factories interested in cleaner production to pursue relevant activities on their own.

5. They held conferences and meetings to increase awareness on the part of key policy-makers from ministries of environment and industry, environmental management agencies, and financial institutions, in the hope that they will support the adoption of appropriate institutional policies.

1.6.3 Goals for Cleaner Production Programs

1. Demonstration. One goal is the implementation of in-plant demonstrations that exploit the readily available source reduction measures for existing processes and products and that can inspire a small number of "innovative" enterprises to implement similar measures. Cleaner production programs in countries like the U.S. and the Netherlands18 can be judged to have succeeded in achieving this goal, and it would probably be reasonable to assume that similar cleaner production programs initiated in developing countries, such as the NCPC program, will also succeed.

2. Dissemination. A second goal is the dissemination of the results of demonstration projects to a large number of plants in the industrial sector, in order to obtain a multiplier effect.

3. Integration. A third goal, and the one that is clearly the most significant indicator of the penetration of cleaner production techniques and technologies, is the integration of waste minimization considerations into all aspects of standard industrial practice. Only in this way will cleaner production, and for that matter any environmentally superior technology,19 become a sustained, continuous effort to reduce the resource and pollution intensity of existing and new processes and products.

These three goals should not be seen as mutually exclusive. Each may be appropriate in a given context and form part of a continuum for measuring the success of cleaner production programs. In the short term, successful demonstration projects are necessary where there has never been a cleaner production program. In the intermediate term, dissemination of the results is necessary to stimulate enterprises to investigate and implement cleaner production measures. In the long term, integration of cleaner production into all aspects of entrepreneurial decision-making is necessary for a sustained effort.

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