From: David A Gabel, ENN
Published September 21, 2010 09:48 AM

The US EPA Celebrates Pollution Prevention Week

This week, from September 19-25, marks the 20th anniversary of the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990. The old way of doing things was to let companies pollute, and then pay a fortune to try to clean it up. This act states that it is a national policy of the United States to prevent pollution at the source whenever feasible. To honor this anniversary, the EPA is urging the public to recommit to the ideal of preventing pollution in their day-to-day lives.


At the time when the bill had passed in 1990, environmental degradation was a major problem (not like it isn’t now). Congress found that the US produced millions of tons of pollution and spent tens of billions of dollars to control it. Environmental compliance laws focused too much on treatment and disposal rather than pollution reduction at the source. Cost-effective solutions were available for pollution prevention, but were not implemented on a large-enough scale. A new policy was necessary to shift the business model to more pollution prevention.

The new policy made source reduction the law of the land. If the pollution could not be prevented, then recycling efforts should be made. If neither prevention nor recycling were possible, then pollution should be treated in an environmentally safe manner. Release of pollution to the environment should only be an option of last resort.

The Pollution Prevention Act authorized the EPA to collect and disseminate information on how businesses can prevent pollution, as well as provide financial assistance to the States. It also authorized the EPA to establish standard methods to measure source reduction. This includes monitoring systems that can detect criteria air pollutants like NOx and CO as well as water discharge pollutants. Pollution prevention has become one of the EPA's primary functions.

"Protecting public health and the environment begins with pollution prevention. We're taking proactive steps that minimize pollution at the source and keep environmental threats from reaching our communities," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "The Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 gave our nation a strong start in this direction. Twenty years later, we must work with our government and industry partners to foster clean innovations and sustainable strategies that expand and enhance pollution prevention across the country."

For more information on Pollution Prevention Week:

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