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Pollution Prevention - Pollution Prevention Regional Information Center Topic Hub

Strategies for reducing the use of toxic substances, eliminating hazardous waste, and conserving water and energy.

Background and Overview

Every enterprise generates waste that can adversely impact the environment. These enterprises can also benefit by incorporating pollution prevention (P2) as an operational strategy. Regardless of the type or volume, waste and pollution are similar in several respects; Both cost money, are non-value added, and affect the environment! This hub is an informative overview for enterprises interested in operational strategies to reduce, reuse, and recycle wastes in a collective effort to minimize its effects on the environment. 

Various corporations use resources to generate a service or product in addition to nonproduct outputs. These outputs can have lasting affects on the environment such as air and water pollution, waste production, loss of biodiversity, and resource depletion. Reducing the amount of waste generated can save corporations the time, money, and resources they expend, along with meeting environmental regulations and being environmental stewards. Corporations can also uphold social responsibilities by implementing sustainable practices in order to minimize negative impacts on the environment. 

"GAO's analysis of the Toxics Release Inventory data shows that in each year from 1991 to 1998, approximately one-quarter to one-third of facilities reported implementing at least one pollution prevention activity." P2 specialists help identify such opportunities for cost savings and environmental improvement. 

What is P2?

Pollution prevention consists of any activity or strategy that eliminates or reduces the use of toxic substances, conserves water or energy, and eliminates (or reduces) the generation of nonproductive output, hazardous waste, air emissions, wastewater, or other pollutants. 

Many states and the federal government have definitions found within separate statutes or regulations, but they all express the same desire to reduce waste by preventing its creation. Other programs choose from among several terms that express this common sense strategy. The following list of keywords describes aspects or subsets of p2. Several terms are links to a defining resource or a quick example illustrating the term. Collectively, these activities or "opportunities" help to define p2.

Best management practices 
Clean production
Design for the environment
Ecological footprint
Energy conservation
Energy efficiency
Environmentally conscious manufacturing
Environmental Management Systems
Green business
Green design and manufacturing
Green engineering
Green procurement (or Environmentally Preferable Procurement- EPP)
Green productivity
Lean and Environment Life Cycle Management and Life Cycle Analysis
Increased efficiency
Industrial ecology
Materials efficiency
High material productivity
Process efficiency
Process improvement
Process optimization
Resource efficiency
Source reduction
Sustainable development
Toxics use reduction
Total Quality Environmental Management TQEM
Waste minimization
Waste reduction
Water conservation

Waste Management Hierarchy

A common approach to waste and pollution is to treat, control and/or dispose of waste and pollution after it is generated, an "end-of-pipe" strategy. This provides the least desirable approach to managing waste, and often serves to transfer pollution from one medium to another, resulting in little net improvement in environmental quality. By consuming, generating, and throwing away less, you reduce the need to handle, recycle, treat, and dispose of waste and pollution. The hierarchy below illustrates the best order of priorities for managing waste and non-product output, with prevention and sustainable consumption first! 

waste management hierarchy

Recycling is not P2

If P2 is not an option, the second priority of the waste management hierarchy is off-site reuse and recycling. While it is generally better, with respect to environmental impact, to reuse and recycle a material rather than discard it, reuse and recycling still require handling, energy use, and reprocessing. From a materials efficiency perspective, you paid for that material, and rather than becoming part of your product or service, it is now going to someone else who will profit from it. 

The last two tiers of the hierarchy, "Treatment and Disposal" and "Clean-up", are the options to avoid to the greatest extent possible in order to maximize resources conservation and protect the environment. 

Pollution prevention requires careful evaluation of a waste or pollution generating situation, then application of quality management and environmental tools to implement and improve whatever is contributing to the waste problem. 

This hub provides a basic understanding of P2 and its applications and possibilities as well as provide other information available on the web. Other P2Rx Hubs provide industry-specific P2 assistance. These resources apply to most operations, regardless of the nature of the business. 

P2 is important for individuals as well as businesses, especially considering the collective impact of individuals and consumers on our environment. Visit P24Uabout impacting our environment.

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