The Two Ugly Faces of Waste

Dusty Bottles - This image is CC0!

Recently, while as was standing with my bike at a red traffic light, I had time for some thoughts about waste. I did not think about any special type of waste.[1] Just the word “waste” itself was what I mulled over. In Lean, you have a very distinct view on waste. Basically you can condense it to:

Two classical examples are over-production waste and waste of intellect. This is well understood in Lean.

Now look at over-production. For example, if in an office too many reports are generated, they may end up in file 13. Over-production of a factory might go to a waste dump. When you cook too much food at home, it can become inventory waste (classical Lean waste type). Or you throw it away:

You could say a waste dump is the ultimate form of inventory. It is also easy to understand that a lot of household or industrial waste is result of some kind of over-production. Here are some household examples:

  • Why cook for six people in a family of four?
  • Why does a tube of tooth paste require an extra cardboard box?
  • Why does an apple six pack need a plastic tray? Why a tray at all, if a paper bag would be enough.
  • How many of your children’s toys are waste the moment they are bought?
  • How many toys do you throw away instead of selling them?
  • How many newspapers and magazines have you thrown away in the last six months?

Of course, in the end it all boils down to the first face of waste: unwise use of resources.

When you are at home right now, or when you go there in the evening, open your eyes: How much waste of the second ugly face can you find? You will be astonished.

What do you think? Did you consider that to be part of Lean thinking? Just leave a message below.

[1] Actually, I was thinking about the differences between my native German language and English. In the German language, you need two distinct words for the two faces of waste I describe here.

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