With the increasing industrialization and urbanization environmental pollution has become a global challenge. According to a report by World Bank (2017), developing countries are the most affected by the increased health risks and pollutions. Environmental pollution is being caused by poor waste management policies and programs leading to air pollution, lead poisoning, water shortages, health problems, poor living conditions and destruction of ecosystems. Pollution has also led to increased levels of poverty in many parts of the world. According to World Health Organization (WHO) (2016), a high percentage of people living in urban areas are highly exposed to air pollution with those living in urban areas of developing countries being the most affected. According to a report by WHO on urban air database, almost all cities with a high population in the developing countries have a poor air quality compared to WHO threshold. WHO (2017) also reported that more than a 25 % of children’s’ death aged below five years is being attributed to by environmental pollution.
Environmental pollution has also resulted in extreme changes in the climatic conditions in many parts of the world. This has resulted in droughts, floods, global warming, loss of biodiversity, and deaths among other fatal impacts.
Many governments are aware of the risks posed by environmental pollution, and they have tried to establish policies and strategies to reduce environmental pollution. Governments have come up with strategies and policies to promote cleaner production.
Definition of cleaner production
United Nations Environment Programme describes cleaner production as a sustained application of integrated preventive environmental strategies in production and processing of good and delivery of services in order to enhance efficiency and minimize to both humans and the environment. According to UNEP cleaner production process is attributed to by combining the following practices; conserving raw material and energy, substituting toxic material for safer ones and by cutting down the quantity of toxic emissions and wastes before releasing them to them to the environment. It also ensures in the process of production the impact on the environment of in the entire process of production is considered this is done by ensuring that raw materials are fully utilized to reduce waste and lastly by ensuring that environmental concerns are incorporated in service delivery.
Before the introduction of cleaner production nations responded to environmental pollution ignoring environmental pollution and its effects, diluting the pollution to reduce its effects, using approaches to control pollution and wastes such as end-of-pipe approach and later started recycling or reusing wastes. Some of these initiatives were not effective, for instance, en-of-pipe technology was just transferring the medium of waste to another for instance by emitting air polluting waste to landfills. Since its introduction in the early 1990’s cleaner production has been supported enormously since it focuses on preventing pollution, minimizing wastes and promoting Eco-efficiency.
Elements of cleaner production
Cleaner production is a continuous process. The parties involved should always work towards the reduction of environmental pollution.
Cleaner production is a universal role and should not only be a mandate for certain industries or businesses.
Cleaner production focuses on ecologically sustainable growth by encouraging balancing between consumption of material and energy.
Cleaner production encourages the production of good and services while considering ways in which environmental impacts can be reduced.
Cleaner production is also concerned with health and safety by encouraging production process that will reduce environmental risks.
Cleaner production is both efficient and effective since it results in increased outputs and positive outcomes for a long time respectively.
Cleaner production does not only benefits and protects the environment and the community but also the business since they gain more profits and good reputation from the public. This is a holistic approach in nature since it addresses environmental, economic and social wellbeing (Khutriyati et al., 2015).
Establishment of Cleaner Production
Though cleaner production was made effective in 1992 efforts to establish environmental protection measures started back in 1972. The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was held in Stockholm Sweden and aimed at addressing the issue of environmental degradation which by then had become a global problem. The conference aimed at establishing a comprehensive protection approach that would include all aspects of environmental protection. The Declaration of the Conference and the Action for Human Environment recognized environment as a new political issue that required, and it led to the establishment of Ministries of Environment in many countries after the conference (UNIDO/UNEP, 2004)
In 1987 the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development which was chaired by former Prime Minister of Norway, Brundtland was given the mandate to report on the state of the environment. The commission came up with the report “Our Common Future” and introduced the concept of sustainable development. They defined sustainable development as a development which is able to satisfy the needs of the current generation while not exposing the future generations to risks.
In 1989, UNEP established the initiative on cleaner production. The initiative aimed at encouraging industries to use cleaner methods in their production processes rather than just focusing on clean technology. UNEP has been campaigning for the application of cleaner production worldwide.
In 1992 the United Nations held the Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. The conference was held to make a follow up of the Brundtland Report. In the Rio Conference a more detailed document which is known as Agenda 21. Agenda 21 had goals that were flexible to specific needs of a country and would help in the attainment of sustainable development. This document addressed several issues such as poverty, social inequity, and environmental degradation, these issues among would be solved through sustainable development. The adaptation of sustainable development has significantly affected industrialization policies and patterns in developing countries since it has the following major challenges (UNIDO/UNEP, 2004)
It encourages the conservation of environmental resources in a cost-effective manner.
To equip industrialization in developing countries to cope and respond to emergent environmental trends globally.
Following the Rio conference, national, regional and local policies focusing on sustainable development were put by many countries around the world.
UNIDO and UNEP joined hands in 1994 and initiated the worldwide National Cleaner Production Center Program. Under this program, UNIDO and UNEP would provide strategic environmental expertise, train, inform and analyze environmental conservation policies. Following this program, 22 Cleaner production centers were established all over the world (INIDO/ UNEP, 2004)
UNEP prepared the International Declaration on Cleaner Production in 1998. This program initiated voluntary participation in the strategy and commitment and practice of Cleaner production. The Declaration objective was to call for support and adaptation of Cleaner production activities and promote cooperation from the participants internationally.
Initiatives to promoting cleaner production
Governments, companies and non-governmental organizations have been collaborating in campaigning for cleaner production. However, some of the parties involved have failed to cooperate and instead, they want to benefit from public good but they are unwilling to support any initiative due to individual interest (Michael et al. 2009). According to Bai et al. (2015), most of the defectors of this strategy aimed at making higher profits by ignoring emissions. Voluntary participation has been introduced to encourage companies to take part in the incentive to reduce environmental pollution. According to Chittock & Hughey (2011) in Japan, for instance, the local government and the industries made voluntary agreements that would conserve the local environment. In the late 1990’s the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established the 33/50 program which is among the most recognized voluntary programs in the world. The companies that participated in the program agreed to use resources sparingly and avoid waste generation and disposal of chemical by33% and 50% in by 1992 and 1995 respectively. According to Chitock and Hughey (2011), Canada established voluntary initiatives in 1988 in the federal and provincial levels, these initiative aim at reducing chemical and harmful wastes from the production process. Several countries in Europe such as Netherlands and Sweden have been supporting voluntary initiatives by establishing measures such as making wavering financial costs and taxes on companies adhering to cleaner production.
Besides measures and programs, successful protection of the environment can be achieved by combining regulations that must be observed by all enterprises and while considering market changes (Iraldo et al. 2009). Such an approach was first adopted by the US in 1990 when the Pollution Prevention Act (PPA) was established as a national policy that would aim at promoting source reduction. The Act also has outlined the role of enterprises, and it requires all enterprises to file and submit their toxic chemical source reduction reports annually. The European Union also introduced the Integrated Pollution Prevention Control regulation which combines laws and regulation and technological initiatives (Testa et al., 2014).
According to National People’s Congress of China (NPC) (2012), China became the first country to establish a Cleaner Production Promotion Law which is positively voluntary in nature. The law has included mandatory requirements such as a mandatory cleaner production audit which is integral in pollution prevention. After the implementation of the cleaner production in China some of the organization and enterprises have to adhere to that lawfully (Hicks and Dietmar, 2007).
In many countries, the implementation of the cleaner production has been faced with many challenges. Some of the challenges facing the implementation of cleaner production include approaches in technological innovation, management strategies, market environment and the nature of organizations (Hoof et al. 2013). To implement cleaner production, it is important to focus on these challenges and ensure that better solutions are put in place. Organizations should ensure that they have an effective management system that will help them implement cleaner production policies (Van Berkel & Lyon, 2007).
According to IISD (International Institute for Sustainable Development) (2013) with the introduction of cleaner production, pollution prevention does nor focus on controlling pollution after creating waste but focuses on how waste creation can be prevented. The concept of pollution prevention known as P2 was introduced by a 3M a manufacturer based in the US in 1975. The manufacturer established a program known as ‘Pollution Prevention Pays (3P), after establishing this scheme the company saved $ 827 million and eliminated more than 800,000 tons of pollutants. The idea was embraced by many companies all over the world, and they replace the end-of-pipe solutions with the approaches that would prevent waste creation. These processes include waste minimization, recycling, energy recovery and zero emission. Pollution Prevention also recommends treatment of waste before releasing it into the environment.
The hierarchy of options in waste management advocates for minimization of waste disposal to the environment while encouraging measures for the reduction of wastes.
Cleaner production practices
Environmental pollution can be avoided in the following ways;
Good housekeeping- industries and other business enterprises should ensure that they adapt appropriate managerial and operational measure that will help to prevent linkages and spillage. Companies should also ensure that they improve the working practices and provide high standard maintenance of their equipment. This can be done by ensuring that machines are operated efficiently, ensuring that there is proper flow of raw materials through frequent monitoring, segregation of wastes and proper training of the employees (IISD, 2013)
Input substitution- companies should ensure that they substitute highly toxic or hazardous input materials with materials that are less toxic, using renewable energy in the production process. For instance, an industry can eliminate CFCs, and they can also use water- based paints instead of solvent based ones.
Modification of the production process- industries should modify their production processes, operational procedures and equipment instruction. It is also essential to develop good record keeping as it helps in the efficient running of processes which results to lower waste and emission generation rates. The industries can also adapt more mechanical processes of production rather than the use of chemicals. It can also involve combination and modification of process to save time and resources which not only increases efficiency but also result in high benefits (David, 2013)
Equipment modification- it is essential to improve and modify the existing production equipment so as to enhance efficiency in the production processes and also to reduce the generation and emission of wastes (IISD, 2013).
Technology change- Companies should ensure that they embrace technologies that enhance the production efficiency and reduce waste generation and emission in the process of production. Adapting better technology in the production process also reduces resource consumption thus minimizing wastes and consequently increasing the over productivity of the company (UNEP)
On-site recovery or reuse- Companies should also reuse the wasted materials within their production process or for a more beneficial use in the company rather than releasing the waste into the environment.
Production of useful by-products- some of the wastes that companies release can be used as raw materials by other companies so the company can sell its wastes to others who can use it more productively.
Product modification- improve the qualities of a product by eliminating undesirable characteristics of the product in order to prevent or reduce the environmental effects of the product while in use of after its disposal. This can also be achieved by using the production process that is environmentally friendly while in the production process of the product. It is also essential to ensure that the packaging materials for the products can be recyclable. This can result in reduced consumption of natural resources as well as reduced risk of environmental pollution (UNEP)
Adaptation of lean manufacturing practices in cleaner production
In the current competitive world, companies are trying to adapt production processes that will help them meet the expectation of the society, the government, and the other important stakeholders. However, to achieve this, they must continually adapt production processes that are efficient and cost effective. According to Queiroz et al. (2015) Lean manufacturing is a production process whose aim is to reduce wastes and cut production cost while improving quality, efficient delivery. Thus its main goal is to produce in the most efficient and cost effective way. It has been reported that application of lean manufacturing is contributing greatly to the reduction of environmental impacts.
Lean manufacturing does not only focus on improving cost effectiveness and efficiency and economic gain, but it also considers environmental conservation an important aspect and aims at reducing the environmental impact that may result from the production of goods and services (Song &Liang, 2011). Therefore, lean manufacturing is concerned with growth sustainability. According to Sawhney (2007) like cleaner production lean manufacturing values and focuses on elimination of wastes which is completely in harmony with the environmental protection strategies. Application of Lean production process is, therefore, essential for the protection of the environment as it incorporates preventive approach in the production process. Lean production achievement in the reduction of wastes and pollutions are linked with the objectives of cleaner production. According to Lipinski et al. (2007), lean production helps meet the customer values which are in accordance with environmental conservation, the cost of products, time and quality.
Benefits of cleaner production
Since cleaner production seeks to improve the production process to reduce the impact of the products to the environment by ensuring conservative production processes are followed during the process. Cleaner production also focuses on eliminating waste generation this results to reduced waste disposal into the environment which can be harmful. The program also aims at ensuring that the products have no impact on the environment while in use as well as after being disposed of. For instance, companies are encouraged to use recyclable packaging materials such that once the product is used the material can be used for another purpose instead of being disposed to the environment. This reduces the consumption of resources as well (David, 2013).
In ensuring that cleaner production is implemented companies employ production methods and technology that ensures that resources are fully utilized. This, in turn, results in improved efficiency in the process of production and save the companies a lot of money.
Cleaner reduces the reliance of companies on a non-renewable resource such as energy which reduces environmental pollution. This has encouraged many companies to adapt the use of clean energy and also use resources such as water conservatively. This has also led to the innovation of cost-effective production technology that does not use much energy.
By implementing cleaner production companies are able to save resources. This is because it increases efficiency which translates to reduced wastage of resources, this means that there will be high production from less raw materials. Companies can also benefit from their waste products by selling them to other companies that use them as their raw materials (David, 2013).
In the modern world industries that are implementing better environmental protection programs are highly appreciated by the government and the society. This helps the company build a good reputation in the surrounding community, nationally and even internationally. This benefits the company as people easily accept consuming its products because of its good reputation.
Cleaner production helps in reducing the production cost of the company by increasing efficiency. Companies produce goods and services at a faster rate as well as reducing consumption of resources. Companies that have implemented cleaner production also are less likely to be involved in non-compliance issues related to environment thus helping the companies avoid unnecessary costs (David, 2013).
Cleaner productions not only caters for the need of the current generation but it also focuses on the overall good of the future generations. This is because the program advocates for sustainable growth. This ensures that resources are utilized wisely while using less wasteful production mechanisms.
Implementation of cleaner production strategies leads to better environmental conditions. This is because industries are releasing less harmful wastes to the environment.
Cleaner production strategies have helped in reducing disposal of harmful wastes to the environment. It has also led to avoidance in the usage of harmful inputs in the production processes. This has significantly reduced the exposure if human beings to health risks such as chronic illnesses which result from environmental pollution. It has also helped in reducing the exposure in the environment to environmental degradation which also results in pollution (Zorpas, 2010)
Barriers to cleaner production
Though cleaner production has resulted in a lot of changes in the industries, business and the government in the last ten years, it has been faced with a number of challenges that have faced its implementation and hindered its potential effectiveness. The following are the challenges facing cleaner production.
Resistance to change
Many people are opposed to change, as they perceive it negatively thinks that it is unnecessary and also expensive to implement in their system. This makes many business owners avoid implementing the initiative.
Inadequate information and training.
Some of the interested stakeholders do not have sufficient information about the cleaner production which hinders than from implementing the program.
Communication problems within the organization
The stakeholder in a company may have the interest in the implementation of cleaner production in the organization, but he or she may not be able to communicate with the top management and elaborate the need for implementation of the program.
Competing business priorities
Most of the companies are focused on the short-term strategies that guarantee profits after a short period, and they tend to ignore the long-term initiatives. Cleaners production being one of the long-term initiatives is, therefore, ignored and the priority given to short-term goals.
Cleaner production may call for modification of the production cost which might be expensive. The stakeholders of the organization may perceive these modifications to be risky and therefore, choose to forego the change and stick to their traditional way of production.
Difficulty in accessing cleaner technology
Investing in new technology is a consideration for many businesses. However, the cost might be too high, or the complexity of the technology may scare away some enterprises.
Failure of existing regulatory approaches
The government may fail to implement effective national policies and regulatory framework. This hides the implementation of cleaner production.
Cleaner production is essential in reducing and managing the current environmental crisis facing the world. With the increased industrialization the environment and the human beings have been exposed to greater risks than ever before. This calls for immediate interventions to prevent further harm. If all the countries, industries and individuals agree to comply and implement cleaner production, it will result in remarkable improvements in the environment. Cleaner production is essential in ensuring sustainable growth. This will result in increased awareness of the need to conserve and protect the environment. The government should enforce the mandatory clean production regulations to ensure that all industries and business enterprises adhere to cleaner production. The international organizations such as UNIDO, UNEP, WHO and Word Bank should work with nations that are highly affected by environmental degradation and help in reducing the impact in those countries by campaigning for the implementation of cleaner production.
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