Waste byproducts are often inevitable in industry, and properly managing these byproducts has created an industry of its own. Many people assume that industrial waste is simply disposed of in landfills and the like, but this doesn’t always have to be the case. With foresight and planning, businesses can reclaim the byproducts of manufacturing and find additional use for them.
Many waste byproducts consist of leftover raw materials used in production, either materials that the end product is composed of or materials used for processing. A business can save considerably on the costs of input materials, as well as reduce the volume of outgoing waste, by reprocessing these byproducts and returning them to the production cycle. For instance, scrap metal can be collected, smelted, purified and recast to be used again—steel and other iron alloys are frequently recycled in this way, making up a substantial portion of steel production worldwide. Wastewater also commonly gets reused following treatment, with the water being returned to the production line after dissolved wastes are removed.
“Unusable” industrial waste that would normally be destined for landfills may not be useless when reused in a new context, provided that it’s non-hazardous. Businesses unable to make use of their own waste products sometimes sell them to other businesses that can use them as raw materials. For instance, a water treatment plant likely has no need or desire for the sludge left behind after treatment, but sludge dewatering can produce dry ‘cakes’ that can be used as biofuel or fertilizer elsewhere instead of simply being dumped. Construction materials also frequently get reused following demolition or repairs, and other construction materials are derived from ash, slag, scrap rubber, etc. resulting from other industries.
Whether reused internally or by other manufacturers, industrial waste doesn’t have to be simply wasted. This reduces the industry’s environmental impact and lightens the need for landfills and new materials.