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RECP Tools & Methodology

The Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production assessment methodology is used to systematically identify and evaluate the Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production opportunities and facilitate their implementation in industries.

The main steps of a Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production assessment are outlined below. This procedure is useful in organizing the Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production programme in a company and bringing together persons to be involved with the development, evaluation, and implementation of RECP measures. A key feature to successfully achieve a resource efficient, cleaner and safer enterprise is monitoring of performance improvements both in terms of increased resource productivity, as well as in terms of decreased pollution intensity. In this respect the joint UNEP & UNIDO RECP programme has developed a guide for Enterprise Level Indicators for Resource Productivity and Pollution Intensity. The Guide is mainly tailored to provide a core set of enterprise level resource productivity and pollution intensity indicators, and explains how these indicators can be applied and how they can be used to initiate RECP and document results.

Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production assessment is most often divided in five phases


Overview of the Cleaner Production Assessment Methodology (UNEP, 1996a)

1. Planning and Organisation

Planning and organisation starts once one or a few persons in the company become interested in Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production. A Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production assessment can be initiated after a conscious decision has been made by the management to take action.

Experience from a growing number of companies shows that the following elements are important for the successful start of a Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production programme:

a. Management commitment:
Plant management has to set the stage for Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production activities, in order to ensure collaboration and participation. Management commitment may be reflected in environmental policy statements, however, the actual behaviour of the management is at least equally important as written statements.

b. Employee involvement:
Management should set the stage, but whether or not good Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production opportunities are found is largely dependent on the collaboration of employees. Employees, in particular those involved in the daily operations and maintenance on the shop-floor, have often key understanding of why wastes and emissions are generated, and are often able to come up with solutions.

c. Cost awareness
Cost awareness is important in the sense that proper cost information can convince management, as well as employees, that producing cleaner can make money. Unfortunately, many companies, in particular small and medium sized enterprises, do not know how much money is wasted. Typically, only costs charged by external waste contractors are taken into consideration Actual waste costs can be significantly more.

An organised approach is necessary to identify, evaluate and implement Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production opportunities. Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production assessments are undertaken with a view to avoid or at least reduce the generation of waste and emissions. Moreover, it is expected that these options will in turn change existing management and information systems, and thus support and facilitate further Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production activities.

d. Organise a project team:
The project team initiates, co-ordinates and supervises the assessment activities. In order to be effective, the project team should have enough process knowledge to analyse and review the present production practices, enough creativity to develop and evaluate changes for the current production practices, and enough authority to implement and maintain the proposed changes in the production practices.

e. Identify barriers and solutions:
In order to develop workable solutions, the project team should identify the site-specific barriers to Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production implementation which might exist.

f. Set plant-wide goals:
Plant-wide Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production goals set the stage for the assessment and should challenge the project team. The tendency of companies to underestimate the Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production potential in the first place, is often reflected in comparatively low goals.

Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production planning is a systematic, comprehensive method for identifying options to reduce or avoid the generation of waste. The Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production planning process itself also has its own results and benefits:

  • A careful planning process can ensure the selection and implementation of the most cost-effective Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production options.

  • Systematic planning ensures that Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production objectives and activities are consistent with those identified in the organisation’s broader planning process.

  • Effective Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production planning facilitates broader business planning investment analysis and decision-making (such as capital budgeting and purchasing).

  • A documented Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production plan may be a condition for receiving financing or insurance at better rates.

2. Assessment Procedure

During the Assessment Phase the material balance is studied, and appropriate measures are proposed to reduce or prevent loss of materials.

During the phase the project team uses all means possible to identify Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production options. The ideas for options may come from a literature search, personal knowledge, discussions with suppliers, examples in other companies, specialised data bases, or some further R&D. Brainstorming is an indispensable tool to ensure creative intellectual environment to think of all possibilities.

Generating options is a creative process that relies more on inspiration than on logical deduction (although logic remains important). The brainstorming session is a combination of creativity and ‘common sense’. Before starting a brainstorming session, literature or other organisations and companies should be consulted, and a site inspection should take place so the generation of options will be more productive. One should, hereby, focus on all influences of the process that could lead to the generation of wastes and emissions. Brainstorming sessions have proved to be most effective when managers, engineers, process-operators and other employees as well as some outside consultants work together without hierarchical constraints.

It should be noted that during a Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production assessment a number of obvious possibilities for immediate improvements may already have been identified. In order to go further, it is often helpful to conceptually divide the process into three essential elements: source identification followed by cause diagnosis, and option generation.


  • For the source identification, an inventory is made of the material flows, entering and leaving the company with the associated costs. This results in a process flow diagram, allowing for the identification of all sources of waste and emission generation.

  • Next is the cause diagnosis: an investigation of the factors that influence the volume and composition of the waste and emissions generated. A checklist of possible causes of waste generation is used to assess all possible factors influencing the volume and/or composition of the waste stream or emissions. A material and energy balance is needed for the evaluation of the relative importance of each of the possible waste generation causes.

The purpose of the next logical step (option generation) is to create a vision on how to eliminate or control each of the causes of waste and emission generation. The generic prevention practices specified before are used to develop appropriate Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production options. After Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production options have been identified, they are evaluated following the same procedure used for evaluation of other investments or technical innovation options. The option generation consists of several elements, as pictured below. The option generating process then considers each element in turn.

Change in raw materials
Changes in raw materials accomplish Cleaner Production by reducing or eliminating the hazardous materials that enter the production process. Also, changes in input materials can be made to avoid the generation of hazardous wastes within the production process. Input material changes include material purification and material substitution.

Technology change
Technology changes are oriented towards process and equipment modifications to reduce waste and emissions, preliminary in a production setting. Technology changes can range from minor changes that can be implemented in a matter of days at low cost, to the replacement of processes involving large capital costs. These include the following: ·


  • Changes in the production process

  • Modification of equipment, layout, or piping

  • Use of automation

  • Changes in process conditions, such as flow rates, temperatures, pressures, and residence times.

Good operating practices / Good housekeeping
Good operating practices, also referred to as good housekeeping practices, imply procedural, administrative, or institutional measures that a company can use to minimize waste and emissions. Many of these measures are used in industry largely as efficiency improvements and good management practices. Good operating practices can often be implemented with little cost. These practices can be implemented in all areas of the plant, including production, maintenance operations, and in ray material and product storage. Good operating practices include the following:


  • Management and personnel practices: Includes employee training, incentives and bonuses, and other programmes that encourage employees to conscientiously strive to reduce waste and emissions.

  • Material handling and inventory practices: includes programmes to reduce loss of input materials due to miss-handling, expired shelf life of time-sensitive materials, and proper storage conditions.

  • Loss prevention minimizes wastes and emissions by avoiding leaks from equipment and spills.

  • Waste segregation: these practices reduce the volume of hazardous wastes by preventing the mixing of hazardous and non-hazardous wastes.

  • Cost accounting practices: include programmes to allocate waste treatment and disposal costs directly to the department or groups that generates wastes and emissions, rather than charging these costs to general company overhead accounts.

  • Production scheduling: By anlaysing these factors, the departments or groups that generate wastes and emissions become more aware of the effects of their treatment and disposal practices, and have a financial incentive to minimize their wastes and emissions. By judicious scheduling of batch production runs, the frequency of equipment cleaning and the resulting wastes and emissions can be reduced.

Product changes
Product changes are performed by the manufacturer of a product with the intention of reducing waste and emissions resulting from a product’s use. Product changes include: ·


  • Changes in quality standards

  • Changes in product composition

  • Product durability

  • Product substitution

Product changes can lead to changes in design or composition. The new product can thus have less environmental impacts throughout its life cycle: from raw material extraction to final disposal.

On-site reuse and recycling
Recycling or reuse involves the return of a waste material either to the originating process as a substitute for an input material, or to another process as an input material. Generating appropriate prevention options is a creative step; the information collected is used as a guidance in this creative process. The most important items to consider within this process are:


  • Find facts (seek all information relevant to the problem)

  • Identify the problem (gradually broadening the problem formulation by asking questions how and why)

  • Generate ideas to solve the problems (traditional brainstorming)

  • Define criteria to be used to select solutions/ideas

  • Screening of ideas/options

  • Select all ideas/options that may be implemented immediately

3. Feasibility studies

The feasibility studies have to prove whether each of the (non-obviously feasible) options is technically and economically feasible and whether it contributes to the environmental improvement.

The feasibility studies can be divided to five tasks discussed below.

Preliminary Evaluation
The options are sorted in order to identify additional evaluation needs. Managerial options do not always require a technical evaluation, while equipment-based options do. Similarly, simple options normally do not require an environmental evaluation, while complex options do. Finally, cheap options do not require a detailed economic evaluation, while expensive options may.

Technical Evaluation
The technical evaluation consists of two interrelated parts. First, it should be evaluated whether the option can be put in practice. This requires a check on the availability and reliability of equipment, the effect on product quality and productivity, the expected maintenance and utility requirements and the necessary operating and supervising skills. Second, the changes in the technical specifications can be converted into a projected materials balance, reflecting the input and output material flows and energy requirements after implementation of the Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production option. The options that do not need capital expenditure, e.g. housekeeping measures, can often be implemented quickly. It is a typical fast-track approach. If capital investment is needed for the chosen option, it is advisable to appoint an ad-hoc group of experts, to make a technical evaluation based on selected evaluation criteria. Raw material, equipment or process changes are expensive and may effect changes in production line or product quality. Therefore, technical evaluation of such option requires more complex investigation.

Economic Evaluation
The economic evaluation consists at least of data collection (regarding investments and operational costs, and benefits), choice between evaluation criteria (pay back period. Net Present Value (NPV) or Internal Rate of Return) and feasibility calculations. The economic data collection builds upon the results of the technical evaluation. In order to properly incorporate the long term economic advantages of Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production, it is highly recommendable to apply Total Cost Assessment principles to the economic evaluation (especially for high cost options).

Environmental Evaluation
The objective of environmental evaluation is to determine the positive and negative impacts of the option for the environment. An environmental evaluation must take into account the whole life-cycle of a product or service. There are essentially two types of life-cycle analyses: quantitative and qualitative. The quantitative method involves developing a set of criteria against which the environmental impact of a product can be measured and then actually measuring it against these criteria. Criteria may be developed using parameters such as: the cost of disposal or clean-up of the wastes generated at all stages in the life-cycle; the amount or cost of energy used at all stages in the life cycle; etc. The other, qualitative approach, is more useful for this assessment. It involves drawing up a matrix of environmental issues vs life cycle stages.

Selection of Feasible Options
First, the technically non-feasible options and the options without a significant environmental benefit can be eliminated. All remaining options can in principle be implemented. However, a selection is required in case of competing options or in case of limited funds

4. Implementation And Continuation

In the last phase, the feasible prevention measures are implemented and provisions taken to ensure the ongoing application of Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production. The development of such an ongoing programme requires monitoring and evaluation of the results achieved by the implementation of the first group of prevention measures.

The expected result of this phase is threefold:


  • Implementation of the feasible Cleaner Production measures

  • Monitoring and evaluation of the progress achieved by the implementation of the feasible options

  • Initiation of ongoing Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production activities
  • To achieve this result, the following tasks should be implemented:

Prepare Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production Plan:
The measures are organized according to the expected date of implementation. Additionally, the person or department with the prime responsibility for the implementation should be identified.

Implement Feasible Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production Measures:
The effort needed to implement Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production measures can vastly differ substantially. Simple measures (like good housekeeping) can easier be implemented. However, the focus should be on complex measures, which require a substantial investment (high cost options). Implementation of these options can require a detailed preparation such as planning the installation and funding requirements. Next, the installation of equipment requires supervision in order to safeguard optimal use of the new facilities.

Monitor Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production Progress:
Simple indicators should be used to monitor progress and to keep the management as well as other interested parties frequently informed. The choice of the measurement method is crucial. It can be based on changes in waste (and/or emission) quantities, changes in resource consumption (including energy) or changes in profitability. The evaluation of the monitoring data should include changes in the production output and/or changes in the product mix.

Sustain Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production:
The ongoing application of the Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production concept may require structural changes in the organization and management system of the company. The key areas are: integration into the technical development of the company, proper accountability of waste generation, and employee involvement. The integration into the technical development could include preventive maintenance schedules, integration of environmental criteria (such as energy and resource consumption) in the selection of new equipment or integration of Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production into long-term research and development plans. Employee involvement can be achieved by staff education, creation of regular opportunities for two-way internal communication and employee reward programmes.

Cleaner Production Tools


Good Housekeeping:
appropriate provisions to prevent leaks and spills and to achieve proper, standardized operation and maintenance procedures and practices;

Input Material Change:
replacement of hazardous or non-renewable inputs by less hazardous or renewable materials or by materials with a longer service life-time;

Better Process Control:
modification of the working procedures, machine instructions and process record keeping for operating the processes at higher efficiency and lower rates of waste and emission generation;

Equipment Modification:
modification of the production equipment so as to run the processes at higher efficiency and lower rates of waste and emission generation;

RECP addresses the three sustainability dimensions individually and synergistically:

  • Production Efficiency: optimization of the productive use of natural resources (materials, energy and water);

  • Human Development: minimization of risks to people and communities and support for their development.

  • Environmental management: minimization of impacts on environment and nature through reduction of wastes and emissions;

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