What is waste minimization?

Waste Minimization is EPA’s preferred approach to protecting the environment. It refers to the use of source reduction and/or environmentally sound recycling methods prior to treating or disposing of hazardous wastes. Waste minimization includes: source reduction practices that reduce or eliminate waste generation at the source and environmentally sound recycling practices where source reduction is not economically practical. Waste minimization does not include waste treatment, i.e., any process designed to change the physical, chemical, or biological character or composition of a hazardous waste, or waste disposal. For example, compacting, neutralizing, diluting, or incineration are not waste minimization practices.

Source reduction includes any practice that reduces the quantity and/or toxicity of pollutants entering a waste stream prior to recycling, treatment, or disposal. Examples include: equipment or technology modifications, reformulation or redesign of products, substitution of less toxic raw materials, improvements in work practices, maintenance, worker training, and better inventory control.

Recycling includes the use, reuse and/or reclamation of waste residuals (that may be designated as a hazardous waste) or materials in a hazardous waste. A material is “used or reused” if it is used as an ingredient in an industrial process to make a product or if it is used as an effective substitute for a commercial product. A material is “reclaimed” if it is processed to recover a usable product, or if it is regenerated.