Contributed by Daniel Teitelbaum, Pollution Prevention Team Lead, Toxics Release Inventory Program, US EPA
For more than two decades, EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Program has required industrial facilities to disclose both their environmental releases and the measures they’ve taken to keep toxic chemicals out of our air, water, and land. It was only recently, however, that the TRI Program began promoting this treasure trove of pollution prevention (P2) data as a resource for identifying demonstrably-effective green practices.
More than 10,000 source reduction activities are reported to TRI each year, but can we tell which ones actually reduce releases? A rigorous statistical analysis of all TRI data shows that the average effect is highest for the reporting categories that include raw material (e.g., feedstock chemical) substitution and switches to aqueous cleaners from solvents. And a separate analysis of the pharmaceutical sector indicates that green chemistry practices contributed to dramatic reductions in the early-to-mid 2000s.
But more meaningful insights lie ahead. Beginning with reports due July 1 of this year, facilities will have the opportunity to report the estimated annual reduction associated with each newly implemented P2 activity. This information will shed new light on which types of practices (including six new green chemistry categories added in 2012) are having the biggest impact on companies’ environmental footprints. As always, facilities that implemented green chemistry will also be encouraged to highlight their successes by submitting a more detailed narrative in the optional P2 section of the form (see video).
As TRI was founded on transparency, EPA has continually sought to increase the accessibility of TRI data on corporate sustainability. To this end, all of the facility-level P2 information and environmental metrics presented in the TRI P2 Search Tool are now available at the parent company-level as well. This means you can now compare toxic chemical management and greenhouse gas emissions data at the corporate level and see what each parent company is doing to prevent the release of pollutants to the environment. You can also explore differences in P2 and waste management practices at different facilities within the same parent company – it’s your right to know.
To access TRI's P2 data and learn about reporting P2 to TRI, visit www.epa.gov/tri/p2.
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