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Special Session of the General Assembly to Review and Appraise
the Implementation of Agenda 21

New York, 23-27 June 1997


Minimizing waste by DESIRE
Location India.
Responsible organization(s) United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).
Description The reduction of industrial pollution by means of waste minimization - also known as cleaner production and pollution prevention - has been identified as the key to ecologically sustainable industrial development. Cleaner production improves environmental quality by eliminating waste at the source. It requires the continuous application of an integrated preventive environmental strategy. Giving top priority to waste minimization in the industrial sector, the Ministry of Environment and Forests of India issued a policy statement on pollution abatement in 1992. UNIDO was asked to help implement its policy on waste minimization by assisting small-scale enterprises to adopt cleaner process technologies. A project called Demonstration in Small Industries for Reducing Wastes - abbreviated DESIRE - was started in early 1993. Using an approach based on the work of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Netherlands Organization for Technology Assessment, international and local experts initiated waste reduction audits in four agro-based pulp and paper, four textile dyeing and finishing, and four pesticide mills. Twelve priority areas were identified in the participating companies and, in each case, an analysis was conducted so that the relative reduction in pollutant load could be estimated. Altogether, more than 500 pollution prevention options were identified.
The Ashoka Pulp and Paper Company participated in the DESIRE project with the twin objectives of production cost reduction and cost-effective compliance with environmental regulations. Pressure from the public to improve environmental performance and the need to conserve water, especially in summer months, were other reasons behind the company's decision to actively pursue waste minimization. Ashoka has already implemented 24 waste minimization options, some 13 options are still under implementation.
UNIDO has undertaken similar projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America. These type of demonstration projects require only brief periods of international expertise.
Issues addressed Waste minimization in industrial sectors through adopting cleaner process technologies.
Objectives To provide assistance to the Government of India in implementing its Policy Statement for Pollution Abatement by reducing production cost and cost effective compliance with environmental regulations.
Results achieved Collectively, the 12 companies spent US$ 300,000 to implement pollution prevention options and saved US$ 3 million in raw materials and waste-water treatment costs. The results of the DESIRE project were published as simple guidelines for waste minimization in a booklet called "From Waste to Profits". The most impressive savings were in the pulp and paper sector. In the Ashoka Pulp and Paper Company, a total of US$ 95,000 was invested in the 24 options implemented so far with net annual savings of about US$ 160,000. Thus the overall payback of the implemented options is less than seven months.
Lessons learned The project has demonstrated that waste minimization can help cut pollution and be a profitable business at the same time. It has demonstrated that environmental protection is a highly productive cash outlays especially when directed towards the production process itself rather than end-of-pipe treatment. The key to success lies in the sustained involvement of dynamic local experts and committed factory managers who are willing to open their factories to outside scrutiny.
Financing The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) funds
Contact Mr. Skip Luken, Environment and Energy Branch,
UNIDO Vienna International Centre
P.O. Box 400 A-1400 Vienna Austria
Telephone: (+43 1) 21131/3352

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Department of Economic and Social Affairs
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1 November 1997