Pollution Prevention (P2)

Pollution Prevention Law and Policies

P2 law

In 1990, Congress passed the Pollution Prevention Act which states: "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...."

EPA is responsible for implementing the law passed by Congress called the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 (PDF) (10 pp, 39 K, About PDF ).

The "Findings" section of the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 explains why Congress passed the P2 Act and are briefly captured below:

  • 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.  
  • 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.
  • Source reduction is fundamentally different and more desirable than waste management and pollution control. 

The "Findings" section of the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 explains why Congress passed the P2 Act.

P2 defined

Pollution prevention is reducing or eliminating waste at the source by modifying production processes, promoting the use of nontoxic or less toxic substances, implementing conservation techniques, and reusing materials rather than putting them into the waste stream.

Pollution prevention means source reduction and EPA defines P2 in this Memorandum - May 28, 1992, Subject: EPA Definition of "Pollution Prevention."

The Pollution Prevention Act defines "source reduction" 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
  • Reduces 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 recovery, treatment and disposal are not included within the definition of pollution prevention.

National pollution prevention policy

The Pollution Prevention Act establishes a national policy that EPA implements:

  • 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.

2010-2014 Pollution Prevention Program Strategic Plan - This plan identifies a number of opportunities to reduce: the emission of greenhouse gases; the use of hazardous materials; and the use of natural resources, while contributing to a more sustainable economy.

Evaluation of EPA Efforts to Integrate Pollution Prevention Policy throughout EPA and at Other Federal Agencies - This evaluation, from October 2008, describes key areas that could benefit from additional attention to P2 integration and makes connections between P2 integration activities and sustainability policy developments.

Pollution Prevention Policy Statement - New Directions for Environmental Protection, Carol M. Browner - then EPA Administrator. June 15, 1993.

Executive orders

The following executive orders help to protect human health and the environment. EPA is charged with administering all or part of each.

Executive Order (EO) 13693, Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade, was signed by President Obama on 19 March 2015. This order promotes sustainable acquisition and procurement of products and services by federal agencies. Federal procurement actions must include specific environmental performance and sustainability factors to the maximum extent practicable.  

Section 16 of EO 13693 revoked Executive Order 13423 of January 24, 2007 and Executive Order 13514 of October 5, 2009.

On October 8, 2009, President Barack Obama signed Executive Order 13514, "Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance (PDF)" (15 pp, 88 K, About PDF ) (revoked by EO 13693). This order established an integrated strategy towards sustainability and made reduction of greenhouse gas emissions a priority in the federal government.

On January 24th, 2007, President George W. Bush signed Executive Order 13423, "Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management" (revoked by EO 13693). This order required widespread use of Environmental Management Systems as the framework for managing and improving sustainable practices and required federal agencies to purchase environmentally preferable products and services. The President's Office of Management and Budget issued a series of scorecards to help track the progress of federal agencies in implementing Executive Order 13423.

Pollution Prevention Mandates in Federal Statutes

Pollution Prevention Act (PPA)You will need Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA’s About PDF page to learn more.

§ 13103 - EPA mandated to develop and implement a strategy to promote source reduction.

§ 13104 - EPA as administrator is given the authority to provide grants to the States to promote source reduction by businesses.

§ 13105 - EPA mandated to establish a database that contains information on source reduction.

§ 13106 - Owners and operators of businesses that are required to file a toxic chemical release form must include a toxic reduction and recycling report.

Clean Air Act (CAA)

§ 7402 - Encourages cooperation amongst the federal departments, states, and local governments for prevention and control of air pollution.

§ 7403 - EPA mandated to establish a national research and development program for prevention and air pollution control.

Also, EPA must facilitate coordination amongst air pollution prevention and control agencies.

§ 7405 - EPA can make grants to air pollution prevention and control agencies.

§ 7412 - Facilities that reduce their emission of toxics into the air by 90-95% can qualify for permit waivers.

§ 7414 - 7418 - EPA may establish record keeping, inspections, and monitoring for all facilities that emit pollutants.

§ Subchapter I, Part C Sec 7470-7479 - Prevention of significant deterioration of air quality-establishment of a plan that includes emissions limitations to protect public welfare and the environment.

§ Subchapter II 12. General emissions standards.

Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA)

§ 11001-11005 - Emergency planning requirements for pollution and fire control. Provides substances and facilities covered under this act.

§ 11021-11022 - Facilities covered under EPCRA must have ready Material Safety Data Sheets for all chemicals (MSDS) and must complete hazardous chemical inventory forms.

§ 11023 - Owners and operators of facilities covered under EPCRA must complete a toxic chemical release form.

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)

§ 6907 - EPA must establish waste management guidelines.

§ 6908a - EPA may assist Indian tribes in waste management.

§ 6921 - 6925

§ 6921: Hazardous Waste requirements established for owners and operators of facilities that produce hazardous wastes.

Under § 6922 - Generators must certify in shipping manifests that they have a plan to reduce waste. They must also submit a biennial report indicating their efforts to reduce volume and toxicity of wastes.

§ 6925 - Permit required for treatment and storage of hazardous wastes.

§ 6927 - EPA can make facilities describe their waste reduction program and inspect them to determine whether a program is actually in place.

§ 6931 - Grants appropriated to the States for assistance in development of Hazardous Waste Programs.

§ 6981 - EPA shall render financial assistance to federal, state, and local agencies that are researching, investigating, or providing in areas of waste management and minimization.

Clean Water Act (CWA)

§ 1251 - National goal is to eliminate the discharge of pollutants into navigable waters.

§ 1252 - EPA mandated in cooperation with federal state, and local agencies and industries to develop programs for preventing, reducing, or eliminating the pollution of the navigable waters and ground waters and improving the sanitary condition of surface and underground waters.

§ 1256 - Appropriation of funds to state and local agencies for pollution control.

§ 1342 - EPA can put additional restrictions on permits (not included in the act).

§ 1381 - EPA given authority to make grants to states for pollution control revolving fund for implementation of management and conservation plans.

Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)

§ 136 - All pesticides and pesticide establishments must be registered. Non-registered pesticides may not be sold or distributed in the U.S.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) 

§ 4331 - Congress recognizes "the profound impact of man's activity on the interrelations of all components of the natural environment."

§ 4363 - EPA shall establish a program for long -term research for all activities listed under NEPA.

§ 4363a - EPA mandated to conduct demonstrations of energy-related pollution control technologies.

§ 4368a - Utilization of talents of older Americans in projects of pollution prevention, abatement, and control through technical assistance to environmental agencies.

§ 4368b - Provide technical assistance to Indian Tribes for environmental assistance on Indian lands.