The World Bank

Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers


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A Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) is a tool which can augment government efforts to achieve integrated environmental management and to promote pollution prevention. PRTRs are part of a new, cooperative, approach to environmental management, involving governments, industry and the public alike. All three groups can use the information generated in a PRTR to improve efficiencies, monitor environmental policy, initiate cleaner production, and reduce waste. Although this approach is now being implemented in several industrialized countries, the relative novelty of PRTR means that uses and benefits of these programs in developing countries are still unfolding. [Source: This note is based on a discussion paper prepared by the Environment Directorate of the OECD in Paris.]

What is a Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR)?

A PRTR is an environmental database or inventory of potentially harmful releases to air, water and soil as well as wastes transported to treatment and disposal sites. Facilities releasing one or more of the substances must report periodically on what was released, the quantities involved and to which environmental media. Some PRTR systems include estimates of diffuse releases such as those from transport and agriculture. Most national schemes make PRTR data available to all interested parties.

Several countries in the OECD have established or are developing a PRTR system: Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands, Mexico, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. One of the earliest (and the best known) systems is the US Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), which, in 1993 for example, included more than 23,000 industries. In September 1996, the European Union approved an amendment to the Integrated Pollution Control Directive requiring all Member States to implement a 'Pollutant Emission Register'. Each PRTR system is developed according to national (and sometimes regional and local) goals and objectives and no two systems are the same even though many features are similar. Each PRTR responds to conditions and priorities present within their own country and therefore, the design and operation differs. There are, however, many commonalties between national PRTR systems.

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