What is a Byproduct?

Definition: A by product is a secondary unit produced in a joint production process that has little value in relation to the main product being produced. In other words, it’s a unit that is created inadvertently during the process of manufacturing another product.


Byproducts occur in almost all industries not just manufacturing. Take farming for example. Dairy farmers breed and raise cows to produce milk in order to sell it to grocery stores, restaurants, and distributors. What is a byproduct of cattle? Manure. The farmer isn’t trying to start a manure farm. He or she is interested in producing milk, but the manure is created during the process.

The manure doesn’t have the same value that the milk does, but it does still have value. Farmers typically sell manure to landscapers or fertilizer companies that process the waste into fertilizer for farms, greenhouses, and home gardens.

There are numerous other processes that create useful by products. Take the logging industry for instance. The main products of this industry are whole logs, but every tree has branches and smaller sections that can’t be used as full logs. These sections are typically ground up in a wood chipper to make wood chips. These are then sold to professional landscapers and home garden enthusiasts.

What Does Byproduct Mean?

Unfortunately not all by-products have the same salability and value as the dairy farmers’ and loggers’ operations. Some by-products are simply waste that can’t be used for anything. Take a nuclear power plant for example. The plant generates electricity using a nuclear process that produces nuclear waste. Not only is this material not salable, it is hazardous to store and dispose of. Companies must build highly specialized facilities to store this material and hire employees who can take caution in handling, transporting, and disposing of it.