What is Pollution Prevention?
Pollution is the contamination of air, land, or water by the discharge of harmful substances. According to the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990, pollution prevention (P2) is defined to mean: "source reduction 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 protecting resources through conservation". Source reduction is defined in the law to mean: "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) prior to recycling, treatment, or disposal; and which reduces the hazards to public health and the environment associated with the release of such substances, pollutants, or contaminants". Pollution prevention occurs when raw materials, water, energy and other resources are utilized more efficiently, when less harmful substances are substituted for hazardous ones, and when toxic substances are eliminated from the production process. By reducing the use and production of hazardous substances and by operating more efficiently we protect human health, strengthen our economic well-being, and preserve the environment.
Source reduction allows for the greatest and quickest improvements in environmental protection by avoiding the generation of waste and harmful emissions. Source reduction makes the regulatory system more efficient by reducing the need for end-of-pipe environmental control by government.
What are the Economic Incentives for Pollution Prevention?
Adopting pollution prevention practices and techniques often benefits industry by lowering a company's operational and environmental compliance costs. By preventing the generation of waste, P2 can also reduce or eliminate long-term liabilities and clean-up costs. Furthermore, disposal costs are reduced when the volume of waste is decreased. This can also lead to a reduction in workplace exposures to hazardous materials which can affect workers' health and hence, their productivity. If less waste is produced, there will also be a diminshed need for on-site storage space. By preventing pollution there will be a greater likelihood that a company will be in compliance with local, state, and federal regulations. Finally, as community pillars, businesses shoulder an important responsibility for protecting the environment and natural resources for their own good as well as that of society.