TRI National Analysis

Food Processing Releases Trend in the 2015 TRI National Analysis

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The following graph shows the annual quantities of toxic chemical released by the food processing industry.


From 2005 to 2015:

  • The food processing sector accounts for more water releases than any other sector.
  • The sector’s total disposal or other releases decreased by 17%, driven by a 17-million-pound reduction in on-site surface water discharges. This occurred despite a 3% increase in production since 2005.

In 2015:

  • Releases of nitrate compounds to surface water accounted for 50% (61.3 million lb) of the sector’s total disposal or other release quantities. Under the TRI reporting requirements, nitrate compounds are reportable only when in solution with water. Nitrate compounds are relatively less toxic to human health than other TRI chemicals discharged to surface waters, but are formed in large quantities by this sector during treatment processes due to the high biological content of wastewater.
  • Note that surface water discharges are often regulated by other EPA programs such the program established under the Clean Water Act that issues National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits.
  • The food processing sector contributed 36% of total nitrate compound releases to water, due to the large quantities of biological materials in wastewaters from meat processing facilities.
  • Other chemicals commonly released by food processing facilities include ammonia, n-hexane and nitric acid.

Source Reduction in the Food Processing Sector:

Nine percent of facilities (135) reported initiating source reduction activities to reduce toxic chemical use and waste generation in 2015. The most commonly reported source reduction activitites were good operating practices and process modifications. For example, one facility installed a UV light channel to disinfect waste water rather than using chlorine. TRI’s Pollution Prevention Search Tool or the EPA data visualization tool for food processing to learn more about pollution prevention opportunities in this sector.

This page was published in January 2017 and uses the 2015 TRI National Analysis dataset made public in TRI Explorer in October 2016.

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