"A strong emphasis on pollution prevention is the most important thing we can do for the future of environmental protection in this country. We have to move our environmental effort 'upstream' to look for opportunities for the use of pollution prevention."
Carol Browner, U.S. EPA Administrator
U.S. EPA is committed to a preventive strategy to reduce or eliminate the generation of environmentally harmful pollutants which may be released to the air, land, and water. The following sections detail some of U.S. EPA's efforts in pollution prevention, hazardous waste minimization, and voluntary pollution prevention programs.
The Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 established a national goal for environmental protection: to reduce or eliminate waste at its source. The Pollution Prevention Act established the following national waste hierarchy policy:
U.S. EPA defines "pollution prevention" to mean "source reduction," as defined under the Pollution Prevention Act, and other practices that reduce or eliminate the creation of pollutants through: increased efficiency in the use of raw materials, energy, water, or other resources; or protection of natural resources by conservation.
The Pollution Prevention Act defines source reduction as any practice which: reduces the amount of any hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant entering any waste stream or otherwise released into the environment (including fugitive emissions) before recycling, treatment, or disposal; and reduces hazards to public health and the environment associated with the release of such substances, pollutants, or contaminants. Some practices commonly described as "in-process recycling" may qualify as pollution prevention. Environmentally sound recycling can reduce the need for treatment or disposal, and conserve energy and resources. Pollution prevention addresses solid and hazardous waste and all air and water pollutants, whether regulated or not.
The Pollution Prevention Act also states that each owner or operator of a facility required to file an annual toxic chemical release form under section 313 of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) shall include with each filing a toxic chemical source reduction and recycling report for the preceding calendar year. This requirement became effective in 1992. The reporting requirements include the following:
Although there are other requirements, these six provide an overview of the scope of information being requested by the Act. Point 6 above lists a number of items that are important components of a pollution prevention plan, and although not required, it is obvious that planning by Ohio businesses and government facilities is desired and will be necessary to fully comply with the regulations.
With the passage of the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments (HSWA) of 1984, amending the 1976 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Congress established a new policy concerning hazardous waste management. Specifically, Congress declared that the reduction or elimination of hazardous waste generation at the source should take priority over the management of hazardous wastes after they are generated. HSWA contains several specific requirements that promote implementation of waste minimization. Generators of hazardous waste who transport waste off-site are required to certify on each hazardous waste manifest that they have a program in place to reduce the volume and toxicity of such waste to the degree determined by the generator to be economically practicable. Owners and operators of permitted hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facilities are also required to provide the same certification annually. Hazardous waste generators and owners/operators of treatment, storage and disposal facilities who manage their own waste on-site, must also identify in a biennial report to U.S. EPA (annual to Ohio EPA): (1) the efforts undertaken during the year to reduce the volume and toxicity of waste generated; and (2) the changes in volume and toxicity actually achieved in comparison to previous years.
With the intent of meeting HSWA's goal, U.S. EPA has published a notice, "Interim Final Guidance: Guidance to Hazardous Waste Generators on the Elements of a Waste Minimization Program" (Federal Register, volume 58, May 28, 1993). The full text of this notice is included in Appendix C of this guidance manual. The notice is intended to provide guidance to hazardous waste generators and treatment, storage and disposal facilities about what constitutes a waste minimization program in place for certification under HSWA. The elements of a waste minimization program are also important components of a pollution prevention plan. The elements include top management support, characterization of waste generation and waste management costs, periodic waste minimization assessments, developing a cost allocation system, encouraging technology transfer, and program implementation and evaluation. Table C-2 in Appendix C compares U.S. EPA's program to the program outlined in this guidance manual.
On May 18, 1993, U.S. EPA also announced a new Hazardous Waste Reduction and Combustion Strategy. Waste reduction is a key component of the strategy. A state/federal task force has been convened to fully evaluate the role of hazardous waste combustion in the management of hazardous waste.
Ohio EPA is authorized to administer the federal hazardous waste program in Ohio. Appendix C of this document contains information about Ohio Hazardous Waste Facility Installation and Operation Permits and their condition that requires a Waste Minimization Report. The Waste Minimization Report is a written document that the permittee must use to demonstrate compliance with the certification requirement to have a waste minimization program in place.
U.S. EPA has developed several programs to encourage the use of pollution prevention techniques, among other methods, to reduce toxic releases. U.S. EPA's 33/50 Program is a voluntary program to reduce national pollution releases and off-site transfers of 17 toxic chemicals by 33 percent by the end of 1992 and by 50 percent by the end of 1995. The Green Lights Program sponsored by U.S. EPA encourages companies to decrease their energy use by using more energy efficient lighting, which in turn reduces the amount of emissions and waste generated through the generation of power. The State of Ohio is a Green Lights Partner and promotes the Green Lights Program to companies in Ohio. Appendix B discusses both of these programs in more detail.
U.S. EPA has proposed the creation of a program that would encourage and publicly recognize environmental leadership. As described in the January 15, 1993 Federal Register, this program would also promote pollution prevention in manufacturing.
As part of the New Chemicals Program under the Toxic Substances Control Act, companies are required to submit Premanufacture Notices (PMNs) before beginning production of new chemicals. The "Optional Pollution Prevention Information" page of the PMN form provides submitters with the opportunity to consider and provide descriptions of pollution prevention and risk reduction options considered by the company in regard to specific new chemical substances. Providing this optional pollution prevention information to U.S. EPA may benefit PMN submitters by reducing regulatory controls and/or testing requirements, if the pollution prevention information sufficiently mitigates U.S. EPA's concerns for the toxicity, human exposure, or environmental releases of the PMN substance.