Pollution is the contamination of air, soil, or water by the discharge of harmful substances. Pollution prevention is the reduction or elimination of pollution at the source (source reduction) instead of at the end-of-the-pipe or stack. 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. NPPR supports multi-media P2 approaches which work to solve environmental problems holistically and do not only focus on pollution in a single medium (air, land, or water). Well-intentioned rules, regulations and solutions that are not multi-media sometimes exacerbate existing conditions by creating larger problems to other media that are not accounted for by a single media-specific solution. Many times this can result in the transfer of pollution from one medium to another. For example, in some cases, by requiring hazardous air emission controls for industrial facilities, other problems might result, such as pollutants being transferred to underground drinking water through the residual sludge. 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 diminished need for on-site storage space. Furthermore, by preventing pollution there will be a greater likelihood that a company will be in compliance with local, state, and federal compliance statutes. 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.