Pollution Prevention

Updated May 24, 2010

What is Pollution Prevention?

Pollution prevention is the practice of reducing or eliminating the generation of waste while avoiding shifting the hazards from one medium to another (e.g., from water to air, from hazardous waste to solid waste, or from environmental concerns to fire safety concerns) .  Although the pollution prevention concept is traditionally associated with hazardous chemicals, it is also applicable to energy consumption and natural resource use (e.g., water, minerals, and wood).  Generally speaking, pollution prevention strategies reduce the overall use of waste- or hazard-generating material by:  a) substitution with a lower-hazard alternative material or chemical; b) process reformulation, product redesign, or process modernization; c) improved housekeeping or operation and maintenance practices; or, d) extending the useful life of the material, product or process through reuse and recycling.   The strict definition of pollution prevention excludes the treatment of wastes prior to disposal, since treatment methods typically involve the addition of hazardous chemical, energy, and natural resource inputs.  Toxics use reduction refers to pollution prevention efforts that focus on processes with hazardous material inputs.