The manufacturing process tends to mix materials that are further mixed in the process of waste disposal. In remanufacturing, one generally wants to separate things into their original components and materials. There are costs involved in collecting, sorting, and transporting used-up products, scrap, and waste. Such separation requires information, effort, and energy, which must all be paid for. These costs must be compared with the costs of new materials.
Even when the operating costs of recycling are attractive, there may be capital costs that pose barriers. Heavy capital investment in existing systems may prevent a company from securing an easy source of new investment to start over. This obstacle may only introduce a time lag, postponing the decision to recycle until it is suitable to make a capital investment, such as when the machinery requires change for some other reason. Some companies that face competitive forces of ever-shorter product times, particularly those in the electronics industry, have introduced "design for the environment" techniques as a major impetus for reengineering their products and processes.
The cost of eliminating or reusing certain materials must be balanced against the cost of disposal. Disposal costs bring up the question of how companies should take account of indirect costs such as the effect of wastes on the environment. These issues have generally been handled by regulatory control of emissions but could equally be dealt with by including the costs of environmental damage in a firm's bookkeeping (Macve, this volume; Todd, 1994). The bookkeeping approach would provide an incentive to minimize such costs, and it might force a truer comparison of the costs of alternative schemes. However, it has proved very difficult to find suitable, agreed-upon measures for such costs.
The requisite information about costs is not usually available to everyone in the firm who might be able to use it to good advantage. It is sometimes not clear who might need the information, and standard management and other accounting systems often do not track costs in a way that is useful to designers. Design engineers may not know of the real costs to the company of the materials they choose because costs usually appear as prices offered by the suppliers. Designers generally have no idea what waste problems will be posed by manufacturing with different materials. Better systems for acquiring and disseminating cost information within firms are needed.
In the larger economy, outside the firm, where waste and scrap materials may be transferred and used, information is needed about potential customers and suppliers of these materials. In traditional metal-recycling sectors, complex, multitier networks of scrap collectors, sorters, brokers, alloyers, refiners, and smelters serve as the information network. Business and trade organizations,