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Implementing a waste-management system

Energy, Materials, Waste, Carbon
All sectors
Low cost
Annual saving:
20 - 50 %
Payback time:
0.5 - 3 Year(s)
Read more
Associated cost savings: Waste:
20 - 50%
Premises and operation areas:
Product and design, Production processes, Waste and recycling
Size of company:
Micro (less than 10), Small (less than 50), Medium (less than 250), Large (more than 250)
Advancement in applying resource efficiency measures:
Beginner, Intermediate
What is in it for you:
SMEs can boost their environmental performance. Potential economic benefits from the sale of source-separated waste material.
Descriptive information:

The core goal of a waste-management system is to think of ways to improve a company's handling of non-product outputs (waste with zero or negative market value), and implement measures to minimise waste generation through more efficient use of resources or re-use of materials and to separate waste for recylcing. 

The waste-management system calls for a systematic monitoring, planning and improvement programme covering a company's whole production chain. This typically involves creating a flow diagram or chart to visualise the enterprise’s input and output material quantities which, in turn, helps to identify waste sources and makes measuring waste quantities possible.

Integrated waste management systems are usually put in place by SMEs during the development of a broader environmental management system (EMS). There is evidence that waste-management awareness increases upon the certification of an SME by an appropriate EMS.

Implementating a waste-management system yields various environmental benefits, mainly through the re-use or recycling of materials, which avoids landfill, reduces associated land use, and lowers greenhouse gas emissions (methane from landfill). Setup costs are relatively low, and potential economic benefits are high, including from the sale of separated waste material to other enterprises or on the free market, and from the reduction of raw material needed for a given process.

Cost savings can also come from reducing energy and water consumption and labour costs per unit product (less time producing 'waste'). Waste streams can also be exchanged in the framework of an industrial symbiosis system.


UNEP (2010), PRE-SME: Promoting Resource Efficiency in Small & Medium Sized Enterprises, United Nations Environment Programme,

European Environment Agency (1998), Environmental Management Tools for SMEs: A Handbook, Copenhagen, Denmark

Kvist S., Pongracz E., Keiski R. (2011), Drivers of solid waste minimisation in Finnish metal engineering SMEs: The role of Environmental Management Systems, International Journal of Environment and Waste Management (2011) 7, pp. 356-369

WRAP (2010), Environmental benefits of recycling: 2010 update. Waste and Resources Action Programme,

Further Information

Mitchell S., O’Dowd P., Dimache A., Roche T. (2011), The issue of waste in European manufacturing SMEs. Proceedings Sardinia 2011, Thirteenth International Waste Management and Landfill Symposium, Cagliari, Italy, 3-7 October 2011

CIPS Knowledge works (2007), How to develop a waste management and disposal strategy,

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