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Pollution Prevention Act of 1990

Pollution prevention is a relatively new theme in environmental laws and regulations. Most regulations promulgated prior to 1990 were based on implementation of conventional waste management practices such as end-of-pipe treatment of wastewaters and land disposal of solid wastes. In 1990, Congress passed the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 to shift attention from "command and control" regulatory measures to source reduction and recycling. This statute is a foundation for future regulations and Agency initiatives, rather than a specific set of rules. The law obligates EPA to develop and implement a strategy to promote source reduction that includes:

  • reviewing existing and proposed programs and new regulations to determine their effect on source reduction
  • coordinating source reduction activities among Agency programs and other federal agencies
  • streamlining public access to environmental data and foster the exchange of source reduction information
  • establishing pollution prevention training programs for Federal and state environmental officials
  • facilitating adoption of source reduction by businesses
  • identifying and make recommendations to Congress to eliminate barriers to source reduction
Since the passage of the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990, EPA has implemented a diverse set of programs and initiatives to meet their obligations defined by the law. Key to EPA's approach is an array of partnership programs that are collectively referred to as Partners for the Environment. ( Through these efforts, EPA is utilizing voluntary goals and commitments to achieve environmental results in a timely and cost-effective way. This is being accomplished by building cooperative partnerships with a variety of groups, including small and large businesses, citizen groups, state and local governments, universities, and trade associations.

Examples of these collaborative efforts include programs such as

The Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 reinforced EPA's environmental management options hierarchy, where the highest priorities are assigned to source reduction, which is analogous to pollution prevention. This involves the judicious use of resources through product and process change, reuse of input materials during production, reduced water consumption, and energy efficiency. The Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 is essentially a formalized national policy and commitment to waste reduction. However, even before passage of the PPA, some early consideration was given to waste reduction activities. Of the previous legislation, those most affecting P2 are the RCRA, EPCRA and the CWA.

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