1.0 Introduction
2.0 The Concept

1.0 Introduction
The Small and Medium Scale Industries form the backbone of Indian economy. There are 3 Million SMEs in the country as against a mere 2000 industries in the large scale sector. The SMEs spread over an area of 3.28 million sq. km account for over 40% of the industrial production and 30% of the country's export. These SMEs also contribute towards more than 65% of the industrial waste generated within the country. This waste not only results in a loss of precious raw materials but also degrades the environment. High specific waste generated from SMEs can be attributed to the following reasons.

a. Inefficient, obsolete and conventional technologies
b. Lack of technical skill
c. Lacks of awareness in terms of quality control

The SMEs can ill afford the conventional methods of environmental protection i.e. End-of-Pipe (EOP) treatment as they lack technical skill, space, finances etc.. They are however under constant pressure from the regulatory bodies to meet the emission standards set by them. The futility of these EOP measures have been recognized. They only alter the form of pollutants, hence, offer only a temporary solution to the pollution problem. Investment in EOP measures is viewed as a dead investment as it does not bring economic returns to the industry and therefore industry is not very receptive to it.

In this scenario, waste minimisation has emerged as an attractive proposition for sustainable industrial development. The reduction of industrial waste i.e. waste minimisation, apart from improving the process efficiency and consequently reducing the cost of production, also brings down the pollution load. Waste Minimisation, therefore serves the dual purpose of making the industrial operations more competitive as well as protecting the environment.

However, the benefits of waste minimisation have failed to reach the grass root level of Indian Economy - the SMEs. The main reason cited for this failure is due to lack of awareness and proper guidance on Waste Minimisation approach. The available manpower and resources are not adequate to cover the vast expanse of SMEs in the country. Furthermore, there are very few SMEs which can meet the expense of hiring external consultants and fewer still who feel the need for engaging them.

To overcome these bottlenecks and to promote waste minimisation and give it a shape of a movement, the concept of Waste Minimisation Circle has been evolved.

2.0 The Concept
A Waste Minimisation Circle consists of a small group of entrepreneurs in the small scale industry following similar production process and manufacturing similar products. The group holds regular meetings within the premises of one of the member units and analyses the production process being adopted in the different units. This analysis leads to identification of causes of waste generation and development of WM options through discussions. The group collectively implements the WM options in their respective units, which amounts to increase in individual profitability and overall reduction in pollution load.

The concept of' WMC has evolved from the concept of Quality Circles (QC) which revolutionized the quality of Japanese goods. QC consists of a group of workers working in the same division in the industry, interacting amongst themselves to generate ideas which would lead to quality improvement. The strongly felt need to improve quality led to the promotion of QC in Japan which in due course of time took the form of a nationwide movement in which every industry and every worker participated.

As regards the WMC concept the involvement of a nodal agency is essential to convince the potential industries / member units of a cluster to form a WMC. This agency also provides basic information on WM, guides the members in problem solving, provides technical assistance and ensures regulation of meaningful discussions / exploration of ideas and sharing of knowledge in the WMC meetings.

'I'he theme behind the working of Quality Circles is generation of innovative ideas and in this context WMC concept is a step ahead of QC. In a WMC, the entrepreneur interacts with fellow industrialists / entrepreneurs and is exposed to varied versions of similar units and the observations from this exposure leads to comparative analysis enabling him to generate fresh / innovative ideas for improving the current practices and attempt improvement of the existing processes.

Waste Minimisation Circles offer an opportunity to the entrepreneur to have a look at his own products and processes from an entirely different angle. Since an entrepreneur is accustomed to seeing his unit in a regular and routine manner, it generally leads to a high level of complacency, and therefore a closed mind does not look for possibilities of improvement. As under the WMC process the entrepreneur will meet periodically in the work premises of one or the other of its members the host unit will have a re-look at his unit along with perspectives of three or four other entrepreneurs of the WMC member units who are equally well versed with the manufacturing process. The host will gain insights from others' perspective and will also have an urge to impress the other members through his ideas. It is likely that he will think of improvements in his industry. Atleast, he will apply his mind to the subject as he has never done before. Similarly, when he is participating in the meeting in the other units, his own unit will be at the back of his mind and each piece of information or idea will trigger off an innovative thought process. After a few meetings, each member will acquire a new perspective about running their manufacturing units which will enable them to innovate in every aspect of their units functioning. Thus the participation of SMEs as members of a Waste Minimisation Circle and application of a systematic WM Methodology with guidance from a WMC Facilitator and NPC should lead to enhancement in industrial productivity at grass roots level and to achieving economic and environmental benefits. The results of the project would be witnessed by other industries and they would also be encouraged to attempt Waste Minimisation Assessment in their units and the resultant multiplier effect would spread as a WM movement which should benefit Indian industry and environment.