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Pollution Prevention (P2)

Learn About Pollution Prevention

What is Pollution Prevention (P2)?

Pollution prevention (P2) is any practice that reduces, eliminates, or prevents pollution at its source. P2, also known as "source reduction," is the ounce-of-prevention approach to waste management. Reducing the amount of pollution produced means less waste to control, treat, or dispose of. Less pollution means less hazards posed to public health and the environment. Learn more about the definition of P2.

Specific pollution prevention approaches

Pollution prevention approaches can be applied to all potential and actual pollution-generating activities, including those found in the energy, agriculture, federal, consumer and industrial sectors. Prevention practices are essential for preserving wetlands, groundwater sources and other critical ecosystems - areas in which we especially want to stop pollution before it begins.

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;
  • use of environmentally benign fuel sources.

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 industrial sector, examples of P2 practices include:

  • Modifying a production process to produce less waste
  • Using non-toxic or less toxic chemicals as cleaners, degreasers and other maintenance chemicals
  • Implementing water and energy conservation practices
  • Reusing materials such as drums and pallets rather than disposing of them as waste

In homes and schools examples of P2 practices include:

  • Using reusable water bottles instead of throw-aways
  • Automatically turning off lights when not in use
  • Repairing leaky faucets and hoses
  • Switching to "green" cleaners

Why is pollution prevention important?

Pollution prevention reduces both financial costs (waste management and cleanup) and environmental costs (health problems and environmental damage). Pollution prevention protects the environment by conserving and protecting natural resources while strengthening economic growth through more efficient production in industry and less need for households, businesses and communities to handle waste.

Learn more about why P2 is important.

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What EPA is doing in P2

Did you know?

Our Pollution Prevention grant program reduces millions of pounds of pollution, a million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents and nearly a billion gallons of water use every year. 

EPA promotes source reduction to eliminate or reduce pollution at its source. Pollution prevention as the preferred alternative to pollution control and waste disposal.

Implements the law and policies

EPA implements the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990.

EPA implements Executive Orders and EPA P2 policies. Presidential Executive Orders (EOs) charge EPA with the responsibility to take actions to protect human health and the environment using P2 strategies.

Supports state technical assistance programs through grants

One section in the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 asks EPA to establish a grant program for states in order to support programs that:

  • Make specific technical assistance available to businesses seeking information about source reduction opportunities, including funding for experts to provide onsite technical advice to businesses seeking assistance and to assist in the development of source reduction plans.
  • Target assistance to businesses for whom lack of information is an impediment to source reduction.
  • Provide training in source reduction techniques. Such training may be provided through local engineering schools or any other appropriate means.

Many states and universities sponsor internship programs that assist businesses in identifying and implementing pollution prevention practices.

Measures prevention

The Toxics Release Inventory Program collects information to track industry progress in reducing waste generation and moving towards safer waste management alternatives.

Strategic measures are reported by P2 grantees. Measuring results is one way to determine the success of a technical assistance or training effort.

Promotes P2 awareness

EPA established the Pollution Prevention Information Clearinghouse dedicated to reducing and eliminating industrial pollutants through education and public awareness.

EPA participates in P2 Week to highlight the efforts of EPA, its partners, and the public in making pollution prevention a cornerstone of sustainability.

Promotes related voluntary EPA programs

E3: Economy, Energy and Environment: is a federal technical assistance framework helping communities, manufacturers and manufacturing supply chains adapt and thrive in today's green economy.

Environmental Management Systems: a set of processes and practices that enable an organization to reduce its environmental impacts and increase its operating efficiency.

Environmentally Preferable Purchasing: helps the federal government "buy green."

Green Chemistry: is the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the generation of hazardous substances.

Safer Choice: helps consumers, businesses and institutional buyers identify products that are safer for human health and the environment.

Voluntary standards development for green products and standards: EPA works with a variety of non-governmental standards developers to promote the development of voluntary consensus standards for environmentally preferable goods and services.