On the other hand, the use of a material which is less environmentally sound when the product is used, could be justified because the impact on the environment is less in another stage of the life cycle. The European Commission has decided that the LCA method will be the technique used to decide whether or not a product can be referred to as an environmentally sound product.

2. Cleaner Production:

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Cleaner production is the conscious use and production of products and proc­esses to prevent the pollution of air, water and land. This means that a careful look is taken at the overall processes and waste materials.

A lot can often be improved, for example, a process liquid (often water) could be reused instead of being discarded: toxic process liquids could be replaced by non­toxic liquids; simple measures could increase the efficiency of machine, etc.

3. Eco-design:

Eco-design is basically a matter of giving the environment a place in product development. This means that during product design, efforts are made to reduce the use of raw materials, minimise the generation of waste, minimise the use of (fossil) energy and reduce toxic emission. This will ultimately lead to a reduction of material and energy used.

Although these tools are used by manufacturers to reduce the impact of their product(ion) costs in fact, manufacturers can gain a competitive advan­tage when the environmental assessment and management tools are prop­erly used.

They will be able to supply more environmentally sound products to a market where demand for these products is increasing.

4. Eco-labeling:

Eco-labelling schemes are being developed in the EU for specific product groups. They are often introduced without the participation of foreign suppliers.

This implies that the criteria adopted for the granting of eco-labels may fail to take account of the characteristics of products from developing countries and conditions prevailing in them. However, it is important to be well-informed about developments in these fields. The use of eco-labels will have considerable marketing implications.

Eco-labelling schemes aim at providing consumers with a choice in buying products which have been designed, produced and packaged, and which can be disposed of at the end of the useful life, in an environmentally sound way.

The use of such labels also encourages producing and processing industries to make a more sustainable use of natural resources. The eco-labelling schemes are generally based on the aforementioned Life Cycle Assessment; the environmental impact of the product is assessed throughout the entire life cycle of the product.