Environmentally Sound Technologies (ESTs) minimise environmental degradation, whilst maintaining or improving the quality of life. ESTs are not just individual technologies. They encompass individual technologies; total systems; know-how; goods; services; equipment; and organisational and managerial procedures (that is, hard and soft technologies).
Compared to traditional technologies and practices, ESTs are less polluting; use resources in a more sustainable manner; recycle more of their wastes and products; and handle residual wastes in a more environmentally and socially acceptable manner.
B. Main Features
Technologies aid governments, organisations and individuals to reach environmental objectives and targets without compromising the quality of life. However, technologies and processes typically have negative impacts upon the environment. For example, they utilise non-renewable resources and generate wastes and pollution throughout their life.
A number of tools are available to identify which technologies provide the best environmental protection. Environmental Technology Assessment (EnTA) assesses the likely impacts of the adoption, implementation and use of new or existing technologies. Environmental Risk Assessment (EnRA) is a systematic and iterative approach that predicts the probability of effects of an action or condition on the environment. Environmental Verification of Technology (EVT) is the third party verification of a particular technology's or process's environmental performance. The integration or overlap of these three tools facilitates the adoption and use of environmentally sound technologies.
The impetus for ESTs includes political frameworks (legislation, multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), regulations, voluntary agreements, policies etc); stakeholder demands (community, industry associations, shareholders, media, contract etc); economics (cost savings, expenditure, trade etc); and image (corporate, environmental, social, state-of-the-art).
Barriers to adoption or transfer to ESTs include lack of or inadequate information; a focus on short term costs and savings; organisational priorities; lack of political or managerial willingness; and lack of support or guidance for EST transfer.
The benefits of ESTs include:
C. Case Studies and Examples
- Reduced operating costs and increasing profits - resources (raw materials, energy, etc) are used more efficiently and effectively; less money is required for pollution and waste treatment; lower insurance premiums or interest rates; and higher market value of green products/services.
- Creation of new markets - old markets and customers are retained; new environmentally-responsible markets are created, new customers and clients gained.
- Reduced pollution license fees or risk of litigation - reduced expense for pollution licenses, permits etc; reduced environmental risks and associated litigation; enhanced readiness to meet changing environmental regulations.
- Improved corporate image and better relations/partnerships with stakeholders, media, community etc.
- Increased staff motivation and productivity due to improved working conditions.
- Increased competitiveness and opportunities - new contracts; expanded business networks.
- Innovation - new technologies, processes, goods, services, procedures, etc developed.
- Improved ability to meet sustainability and multi-lateral environmental agreements.
A coconut arrack distillery in Sri Lanka produces roughly 6,750 litres of absolute alcohol per day. The company seeked to improve its process efficiency by addressing fuel use and solid and liquid waste production. By introducing new technologies, changes processes and improving housekeeping, the company reduced its fuel usage by 22% (and therefore reduced its carbon dixoide and sulfur dioxide loadings), reduced alcohol levels in spent wash by 95% and reduced the number of broken bottles and therefore solid waste levels. The payback period for investment costs was 3 months. The company is saving around US $88,900 per year.
2. Knitting Mill
Low performance dying machines in a Beijing knitting mill were replaced with an environmentally sound jet dying machine. The Centre for Environmentally Sound Technology Transfer worked with the knitting company to identify and assess needs and requirements and implement the new system. The new jet dying machine had a payback period of 2.7 years and reduced annual chemical consumption by 53 tonnes, reduced water usage by 48% per 100 kg of cloth, reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 3.78 tonnes per year and reduced steam by 91% per 100 kg of cloth.
D. Target Sectors / Stakeholders
Governments, industry associations, financial institutions, the community, non-government organisations and businesses/organisations are responsible for promoting and encouraging the adoption of ESTs. Research institutions, industry associations, etc drive EST development. Customers, clients, shareholders, government and the community create demand.
E. Scale of Operation
As ESTs generally refer to equipment, procedures, processes, goods and services, the adoption of ESTs is suitable worldwide, typically at the operation level.