Decision-makers require useful tools, such as indicators, to help them make environmentally sound decisions leading to effective management of hazardous wastes. Four hazardous waste indicators are being tested for such a purpose by several countries within the Sustainable Development Indicator Programme of the United Nations Commission for Sustainable Development. However, these indicators only address the 'down-stream' end-of-pipe industrial situation. More creative thinking is clearly needed to develop a wider range of indicators that not only reflects all aspects of industrial production that generates hazardous waste but considers socio-economic implications of the waste as well. Sets of useful and innovative indicators are proposed that could be applied to the emerging paradigm shift away from conventional end-of-pipe management actions and towards preventive strategies that are being increasingly adopted by industry often in association with local and national governments. A methodological and conceptual framework for the development of a core-set of hazardous waste indicators has been developed. Some of the indicator sets outlined quantify preventive waste management strategies (including indicators for cleaner production, hazardous waste reduction/minimization and life cycle analysis), whilst other sets address proactive strategies (including changes in production and consumption patterns, eco-efficiency, eco-intensity and resource productivity). Indicators for quantifying transport of hazardous wastes are also described. It was concluded that a number of the indicators proposed could now be usefully implemented as management tools using existing industrial and economic data. As cleaner production technologies and waste minimization approaches are more widely deployed, and industry integrates environmental concerns at all levels of decision-making, it is expected that the necessary data for construction of the remaining indicators will soon become available.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.