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June 19, 2001
About Pollution Prevention
Any actvity that reduces or eliminates pollutants prior to recycling,
treatment, control or disposal, is considered pollution prevention.
- good housekeeping
- inventory control
- in-process recycling
- product substitution
- process changes
- waste segregation
Prevention IS NOT:
- off-site recycling
- pollution treatment
- end-of-pipe control
Pollution prevention became a national policy with the Pollution
Prevention Act of 1990. The Act established the waste management
hierarchy (right) whereby wastes should be prevented or reduced
at the source whenever feasible and safe disposal is the option
of last resort.
The Pollution Prevention Act
FINDINGS - The Congress finds that:
- The United States of America annually produces millions of tons of pollution and spends
tens of billions of dollars per year controlling this pollution.
- There are significant opportunities for industry to reduce or prevent pollution at the
source through cost-effective changes in production, operation, and raw materials use.
Such changes offer industry substantial savings in reduced raw material, pollution
control, and liability costs as well as help protect the environment and reduce risks to
worker health and safety.
- The opportunities for source reduction are often not realized because existing
regulations, and the industrial resources they require for compliance, focus upon
treatment and disposal, rather than source reduction; existing regulations do not
emphasize multi-media management of pollution; and businesses need information and
technical assistance to overcome institutional barriers to the adoption of source
- Source reduction is fundamentally different and more desirable than waste management and
pollution control. The Environmental Protection Agency needs to address the historical
lack of attention to source reduction.
- As a first step in preventing pollution through source reduction, the Environmental
Protection Agency must establish a source reduction program which collects and
disseminates information, provides financial assistance to States, and implements the
other activities provided for in this subtitle.
- The Congress hereby declares it to be the national policy of the United
States that pollution should be prevented or reduced at the source whenever
feasible; pollution that cannot be prevented should be recycled in an
environmentally safe manner whenever feasible; pollution that cannot be
prevented or recycled should be treated in an environmentally safe manner
whenever feasible; and disposal or other release into the environment
should be employed only as a last resort and should be conducted in an
environmentally safe manner.
of Pollution Prevention
The concept of pollution prevention is broadly applicable--a tool to accomplish
many environmental tasks. Pollution prevention requires a cultural change--one
which encourages more anticipation and internalizing of real environmental
costs by those who may generate pollution, and which requires assistance
providers to build a new relationship with their constituents to find
the most-effective means to achieve those goals.
The following EPA "Statement of Definition" is a formal embodiment
of what has been the Agency's working definition of pollution prevention,
and is consistent with the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 and the Agency's
1991 Pollution Prevention Strategy. It makes clear that prevention is
the first priority within an environmental management hierarchy that includes:
1) prevention, 2) recycling, 3) treatment, and 4) disposal or release.
Whether the pollution prevention option is selected in any given situation
will depend on the requirements of applicable law, the level of risk reduction
that can be achieved, and the cost-effectiveness of that option.
The hierarchy should be viewed as establishing a set of preferences, rather
than an absolute judgment that prevention is always the most desirable
option. The hierarchy is applied to many different kinds of circumstances
that will require judgment calls.
Drawing an absolute line between prevention and recycling can be difficult.
"Prevention" includes what is commonly called "in-process
recycling," but not "out-of-process recycling." Recycling
conducted in an environmentally sound manner shares many of the advantages
of prevention, e.g. energy and resource conservation, and reducing the
need for end-of-pipe treatment or waste
As EPA looks at the "big picture" in setting strategic directions
for the decade ahead, it is clear that prevention is key to solving the
problems that all our media programs face, including the increasing cost
of treatment and cleanup. In the common-sense words of Benjamin Franklin,
"an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
of Definition (pursuant to the Pollution Prevention
Act of 1990 and the Pollution Prevention Strategy)
Under Section 6602(b) of the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990, Congress
established a national policy that:
- pollution should be prevented or reduced at the source whenever feasible
- pollution that cannot be prevented should be recycled in an environmentally
safe manner whenever feasible
- pollution that cannot be prevented or recycled should be treated in an environmentally
safe manner whenever feasible
- disposal or other release into the environment should be employed only as a last resort
and should be conducted in an environmentally safe manner
Pollution prevention means "source reduction," as defined under the Pollution
Prevention Act, and other practices that reduce or eliminate the creation of pollutants
- increased efficiency in the use of raw materials, energy, water, or other resources
- protection of natural resources by conservation.
The Pollution Prevention Act defines "source reduction" to mean any practice
- reduces the amount of any hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant entering any
waste stream or otherwise released into the environment (including fugitive emissions)
prior to recycling, treatment, or disposal
- reduced the hazards to public health and the environment associated with the release of
such substances, pollutants, or contaminants
The term includes: equipment or technology modifications, process or procedure
modifications, reformulation or redesign of products, substitution of raw materials, and
improvements in housekeeping, maintenance, training, or inventory control.
Under the Pollution Prevention Act, recycling, energy recover, treatment, and disposal are
not included within the definition of pollution prevention. Some practices commonly
described as "in-process recycling" may qualify as pollution prevention.
Recycling that is conducted in an environmentally sound manner shares many of the
advantages of prevention--it can reduce the need for treatment or disposal, and conserve
energy and resources.
In the agricultural sector, pollution prevention approaches include:
- reducing the use of water and chemical inputs
- adoption of less environmentally harmful pesticides or cultivation of crop strains with
natural resistance to pests
- protection of sensitive areas
In the energy sector, pollution prevention can reduce environmental damages from
extraction, processing, transport, and combustion of fuels. Pollution prevention
- increasing efficiency in energy use
- substituting environmentally benign fuel sources
- design changes that reduce the demand for energy