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What is Pollution Prevention?

Definitions of Pollution Prevention and Source Reduction

Pollution prevention means "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" 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 or products, substitution of raw materials, and improvements in housekeeping, maintenance, training, or inventory control.

Specific Pollution Prevention Approaches

Pollution prevention approaches can be applied to all pollution-generating activities, including those found in the energy, agriculture, Federal, consumer, as well as industrial sectors. The impairment of wetlands, ground water sources, and other critical resources constitutes pollution, and prevention practices may be essential for preserving these resources. These practices may include conservation techniques and changes in management practices to prevent harm to sensitive ecosystems. Pollution prevention does not include practices that create new risks of concern.

In the agricultural sector, pollution prevention approaches include:

reducing the use of water and chemical inputs; adoption of less environmentally harmful pesticides or cultivation of crop strains with natural resistance to pests; and protection of sensitive areas.

In the energy sector, pollution prevention can reduce environmental damages from extraction, processing, transport, and combustion of fuels. Pollution prevention approaches include:

increasing efficiency in energy use; substituting environmentally benign fuel sources; and design changes that reduce the demand for energy.

Practices Outside the Definition

Under the Pollution Prevention Act, recycling, energy recovery, treatment, and disposal are not included within the definition of pollution prevention. Some practices commonly described as "in-process recycling" may qualify as pollution prevention. Recycling that is conducted in an environmentally sound manner shares many of the advantages of prevention—it can reduce the need for treatment or disposal, and conserve energy and resources.

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