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Identifying and Reducing Waste

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Identifying and Reducing Waste

By Rainer Busch


Waste is all around us; however we do not necessarily recognise it as such. In this article I would like to provide some typical examples of what can be defined as waste and how we can reduce or eliminate it. – Looking at waste is not the same as actually ‘seeing’ waste and wasteful behaviour.


What is waste? – Most people will think of waste as the sort of rubbish we accumulate as part of everyday living such as food scraps, empty food and drink containers, used packaging materials, etc. In short, all that ‘stuff’ that we place into our regular garbage collection ready for landfill, composting, recycling, etc. We can all identify with this type of waste; however there are other types of waste that may not be as obvious. Here are some examples:

Waste Type

Domestic Examples

Business Examples

Time Related

Travelling to and from a chosen destination

Idle time between tasks

Time it takes to ‘boot up’ a computer

Waiting in a queue

Process set up times

Poor planning processes

Energy & Resource Related

Leaving appliances switched on when not needed (i.e. TV, Lights, Heating/Cooling, etc.)

Running machinery and equipment when not needed ( i.e. Conveyer belts; Computers, Lights,  Heating/Cooling, etc.)

Preparing more food than is needed and disposing of the surplus into garbage

Producing and storing excessive stock of goods.

Errors that lead to product scrap or require tasks/services to be redone

Running water taps excessively (ie. when showering, washing hands, etc.)

Printing documents unnecessarily.

Excessive packaging of goods.

Leaving a motor vehicle’s engine running when stationary

Leaking machinery and equipment (ie. water, oil, gas, etc.)


Procuring and storing items that are hardly ever used

Process equipment sitting idle or not being used at all

Living spaces not being used

Office / Factory spaces sitting empty

Duplication and Convoluted Processes

Doing several unplanned shopping trips rather than one planned one

Needing more than three mouse clicks to access a frequently used software feature



There are of course many more waste types and wasteful behaviours. Unfortunately people often engage in wasteful behaviours without being aware of what they are doing. Seriously, how often do we look at our surroundings and truly ‘see’ the waste we produce or how we engage in the production of waste?  However we can all make a difference by raising ‘waste’ awareness and becoming conscious of our actions at home and at work. We will not just save precious time and resources, but we will also save money.

To identify potential waste and or wasteful behaviour one can use the following questions to ascertain if an activity or resource being used may be classified as ‘waste’:

  • ·        Does the observed activity or resource improve our general wellbeing / quality of life?
  • ·        Does the observed activity or resource mitigate risks to the business, the environment and people?
  • ·        Does the observed activity or resource improve overall profitability of the organisation?
  • ·        Is the observed activity or resource necessary to conform to legal or statutory requirements?

If the answer to most of the questions is ‘no’ the activity or resource use may be regarded as potential waste and steps can be taken to reduce or eliminate it.


By systematically looking at everything we do through ‘waste-coloured glasses’ one can see and identify various waste streams. By assigning a cost to those waste streams one can prioritise and develop relevant corrective actions. There is money in waste and often one person’s waste can be another person’s resource.

Example: A client organisation saves money in disposal costs on used packaging material by finding another business that can utilise this material as part of their internal processes. – Winners all round, except maybe the waste removal contractor who only has to empty the waste container once a month rather than once a week.



The identification and reduction/elimination of waste, especially in for-profit and not-for-profit organisations has huge potential. By being proactive, a business can improve its productivity by looking at its waste streams and implement actions and programs that will have a positive impact on their viability. On top of that such initiatives will have a ‘rub-off’ effect on the people working within and with the business by raising their awareness about waste prevention initiatives and adopting similar practices in their home situations. That has to be good for all of us. –  We can do better by reducing waste.

Raidho Solutions assists organisations to identify and eliminate waste and to change wasteful behaviour – www.raidho.com.au

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