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Pollution Prevention Act

The Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 was enacted to increase interest in source reduction or pollution prevention and encourage adoption of cost effective source reduction practices. 

According to the act, it is the policy of the United States that pollution should be prevented or reduced at the source.  If pollution cannot be prevented it should be recycled in an environmentally safe manner.  If pollution cannot be prevented or recycled it should be treated in an environmentally safe manner.

The Act defines source reduction as any practice which:

  1. 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; and
  2. reduces the hazards to public health and the environment associated with the release of such substances, pollutants, or contaminants.

The act requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish an Office of Pollution Prevention, develop and coordinate a pollution prevention strategy, and develop source reduction models.  The office of Pollution Prevention reviews and advises single medium program offices to promote an integrated, multi-media (i.e., air, land, and water) approach to source reduction.  The EPA makes recommendations to Congress to eliminate barriers to source reduction.  The EPA also conducts workshops and produces and disseminates guidance documents as part of a training program on source reduction opportunities for state and federal enforcement officers of environmental regulations. EPA’s strategy, issued in 1991, identifies goals, tasks, target dates, resources required, organizational responsibilities, and criteria to evaluate program progress.  In addition, the Act requires the EPA to promote source reduction practices in other federal agencies and to identify opportunities to use federal procurement to encourage source reduction.

To facilitate source reduction by industry, the EPA is required to:

  • develop, test, and disseminate model source reduction auditing procedures to highlight opportunities;
  • promote research and development of source reduction techniques and processes with broad applicability;
  • establish an annual award program to recognize innovative programs;
  • establish a program of state matching grants for programs to provide technical assistance to business; and
  • disseminate information about source reduction techniques through a clearinghouse. 

The act also includes provisions to improve data collection and public access to environmental data.  The act requires EPA to develop improved methods of coordinating, streamlining and assuring access to data collected under all federal environmental statutes.  An advisory panel of technical experts is established to advise the Administrator on ways to improve collection and dissemination of data.

Owners and operators of many industrial facilities must report annually on their releases of toxic chemicals to the environment.  The reports should include the following information:

  • the quantity of the toxic chemical entering any waste stream (or released to the environment) prior to recycling, treatment, or disposal;
  • the quantity of toxic substance recycled (on- or off-site);
  • the source reduction practices used;
  • quantities of toxic chemical expected to enter waste streams and to be recycled in the two years following the year for which the report is prepared;
  • ratio of production in the reporting year to production in the previous year;
  • techniques used to identify opportunities for source reduction;
  • amount of toxic chemical released in a catastrophic event, remedial action, or other one-time event; and
  • amount of toxic chemical treated on- or off-site.

All collected information is available to the general public.

Citizens are given the authority to bring civil action for noncompliance against a facility, EPA, a governor, or a State Emergency Response Commission.  Non compliance with mandatory provisions results in civil, administrative and criminal penalties.

Inside Pollution Prevention Act