United States Environmental Protection Agency

The Waste Minimation National Plan


Courtesy of United States Environmental Protection Agency

Executive Summary

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is committed to making pollution prevention the guiding principle of the Agency's environmental efforts. The 1984 Amendments to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the 1990 Pollution Prevention Act set in policy the preference for source reduction over waste management. EPA is reaffirming this commitment. With the release of the Waste Minimization National Plan on November 18, 1994, EPA outlines its major goals, objectives, and action items to pave the way toward national reductions in the generation of hazardous waste.

This Plan focuses on reducing the generation and subsequent release to the environment of the most persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic constituents in hazardous wastes, and establishes three goals:

1.- To reduce, as a nation, the presence of the most persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic constituents by 25 percent by the year 2000 and by 50 percent by the year 2005.

2.- To avoid transferring these constituents across environmental media.

3.- To ensure that these constituents are reduced at their source whenever possible, or, when not possible, that they are recycled in an environmentally sound manner.

EPA does not expect that each and every generator of persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic constituents in hazardous waste will reduce the generation of these constituents in waste by the levels and time frames presented above. EPA intends for these reductions to be achieved nationally by EPA, states, and generators working together.

EPA encourages all states and generators of hazardous waste containing persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic constituents to define their own baseline years, set their own goals and target years for achieving their goals, and track their own progress toward their goals. This flexibility will allow states and generators that have already begun source reduction and pollution prevention to begin measuring their successes from the year they started, and will give them flexibility in how they contribute to the national goals.

EPA sought widespread input from interest groups, citizens, industry, the states and federal regulators, and technical experts, to establish this Plan. Five key message recurred as a common theme throughout the many discussions and comments from the public, and the Agency used these to develop the backbone and five objectives of the Plan. The Plan presents a combination of voluntary, regulatory, and institutional mechanisms to achieve these objectives, as described briefly below:

Objective 1: Develop a framework for setting national priorities; develop a flexible screening tool for identifying priorities at individual facilities; identify constituents of concern. EPA will prioritize pollution prevention efforts based on risk. The Agency will develop a screening tool to help states and industry set source reduction priorities. It will be based primarily on the inherent hazard of constituents but also will be applicable to hazards posed by management practices. The Agency already has developed a prototype screening approach addressing metals in hazardous wastes managed by combustion and metals in releases from combustion, and will use it to set initial waste minimization priorities.

In addition, the Agency will use the screening tool to develop a list of high-priority constituents for source reduction and recycling, to assist those states and generators that are not able to apply the screening tool.

Objective 2: Promote multimedia environmental benefits and prevent cross-media transfers. The Agency will propose guidance that encourages implementation of multimedia pollution prevention programs at all facilities. Pollution prevention often is not applied cohesively across different departments at facilities or between EPA or state offices and companies. EPA will work with states and facilities to incorporate efforts across media and avoid duplicative and counterproductive work.

Objective 3: Demonstrate a strong preference for source reduction; shift attention to the nation's hazardous waste generators to reduce hazardous waste generation at its source. EPA will promote the focusing of technical assistance on small- and medium-sized generators of high-priority constituents; promote the incorporation of waste minimization in inspection, permit writing, and enforcement programs; develop demonstration projects focusing on priority constituents; and provide EPA Regions and states with waste minimization training for inspectors, permit writers, and enforcement officials, among other actions to achieve this objective.

Objective 4: Clearly define and track progress; Promote accountability for EPA, states, and industry. EPA will identify data necessary to evaluate progress in reducing the most persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic constituents. EPA will explore databases that contain information on hazardous waste quantities and how they are managed (such as the Biennial Reporting System (BRS) Database), and on how toxic chemicals are released to the environment and are managed (the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) Database).

Objective 5: Involve citizens in waste minimization implementation decisions. EPA will continue to encourage generators of hazardous wastes to share information with the public and be accountable to the public. In particular, EPA encourages facilities to share information on progress towards waste minimization initiatives that were specifically identified. EPA will publish guidance to EPA Regions, states, and industry, identifying how waste minimization information could be made available to the public.

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