Cleaner Production (CP)

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Cleaner Production (CP) is defined as “the continuous application of an integrated, preventive strategy to processes, products and services to increase efficiency and reduce risks to humans and the environment.” (UNEP-United Nations Environment Programme). With regard to waste treatment:

Common: What do I have to do with generated waste?

CP: Where does the generated waste come from?


It is tried to involve cleaner production in every kind of industry sector.


The principle of CP is from symptom to the source. Therefore a analysis of the material flow is necessary. How do material and energy change from Input to Output?


Figure 1: Input vs Output

A detailed description of the material- and energy uses is needed for answering following questions:

  • Which waste and emission streams are generated?
  • Which raw materials are lost?
  • Where and why does it happen?
  • Where are these weak points?
  • Where are potentials for improvement?
  • Which material can be reused?

With the analysis it is possible to compare different kinds of techniques and the generated amount of waste and emissions. From economic point of view it is more expansive to produce waste than to get rid of it. But not only saving costs is motivation for the company to think about implementation of CP in their processes, also other factors for prevention like bad image, new conditions and protests of neighbours influence the decision.

Various measures of CP can be taken under different levels of procedure in company:


Figure 2: Levels of prevention

1. Reduction at the source
  • Product change (substitute product, rise product life time, change materials and the product design, use of recycled materials)
  • Good housekeeping (improves information, check of cleaning period, material flow analysis etc.)
  • Substitution of materials (organic solvents instead of aqueous agents, petrochemical products instead of biochemical products, cleaner raw materials, biological degradable materials, lower number of components, in general: less use of toxic materials)
  • Technological modification (avoiding thermochemical processes, separate management of waste and waste water streams, better process conditions, recovery and reuse of materials, rise life time of chemicals)
2. Internal recycling

(re-utilization of materials, reuse of materials for different purpose, closing of loops, multi way system)

3. Waste and material management

(minimize disposal costs, cleaning expenses and hazardous waste, external recycling, storage and dumping)

4. Energy conservation

(reduce heat losses and distribution losses, heat recovery, higher electrical efficiency with speed controlled machines, change energy carrier, heat and power co- generation)

As said before costs are another important factor which indicates if a company is apt to support the way of CP. Total environmental costs consist of:

  • Obvious environmental costs (disposal costs, disposal charges, costs of recycling, materials etc.)
  • External costs (education, analysis, consulting, transports etc.)
  • Values of lost raw material (waste, emissions, waste water, waste heat etc.)
  • Depreciation of environmental equipment (emissions reduction, noise protection, waste water treatment etc.)
  • Personal costs (training and courses, consulting, analysis and evaluations in the company, legal compliance etc.)
  • Costs for outside services (payment to other companies for education, consulting, analysis, transports etc.)
  • “Hidden” environmental costs (costs for public relation/image, sick leave, employee [de]motivation)

Reference: Joanneum Research: CP as industrial strategy to minimize toxic waste; paper presented in Portugal, May 2000

Further Information on Cleaner Production online: