In theory, waste applies to nonproduct output of processes and discarded products, irrespective of the environmental medium affected. In practice, since passage of the RCRA, most uses of waste refer exclusively to the hazardous and solid wastes regulated under RCRA and do not include air emissions or water discharges regulated by the Clean Air Act or the Clean Water Act.
Pollution and pollutants refer to all nonproduct output, irrespective of any recycling or treatment that may prevent or mitigate releases to the environment (includes all media).
Waste minimization initially included both treating waste to minimize its volume or toxicity and preventing the generation of waste at the source. The distinction between treatment and prevention became important because some advocates of decreased waste generation believed that an emphasis on waste minimization would deflect resources away from prevention towards treatment. In the current RCRA biennial report, waste minimization refers to source reduction and recycling activities and now excludes treatment and energy recovery.
Source reduction is defined in the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 as "any practice which (1) reduces the amount of any hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant entering any waste stream or otherwise released into the environment (including fugitive emissions) prior to recycling, treatment, and disposal; and (2) reduces the hazards to public health and the environment associated with the release of such substances, pollutants, or contaminants. The term includes equipment or technology modifications, process or procedure modifications, reformulations or design of products, substitution of raw materials, and improvements in housekeeping, maintenance, training, or inventory control." Source reduction does not entail any form of waste management (e.g., recycling and treatment). The act excludes from the definition of source reduction "any practice which alters the physical, chemical, or biological characteristics or the volume of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant through a process or activity which itself is not integral to and necessary for the production of a product or the providing of a service."
This term is used by the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment synonymously with source reduction. However, many groups use the term to refer to waste minimization. Therefore, determining the use of waste reduction is important when it is encountered.
Toxic chemical use substitution or material substitution describes replacing toxic chemical with less harmful chemicals even though relative toxicities may not be fully known. Examples include substituting a toxic solvent in an industrial process with a less toxic chemical and reformulating a product to decrease the use of toxic raw materials or the generation of toxic by-products. This term also refers to efforts to reduce or eliminate the commercial use of chemicals associated with health or environmental risks, including substitution of less hazardous chemicals for comparable uses and the elimination of a particular process or product from the market without direct substitution.
Toxics use reduction refers to the activities grouped under source reduction where the intent is to reduce, avoid, or eliminate the use of toxics in processes and products so that the overall risks to the health of workers, consumers, and the environment are reduced without shifting risks between workers, consumers, or parts of the environment.
Pollution prevention refers to activities to reduce or eliminate pollution or waste at its source or to reduce its toxicity. It involves the use of processes, practices, or products that reduce or eliminate the generation of pollutants and waste or that protect natural resources through conservation or more efficient utilization. Pollution prevention does not include recycling, energy recovery, treatment, and disposal. Some practices commonly described as in-process recycling may qualify as pollution prevention.
In the context of pollution prevention, resource protection refers to protecting natural resources by avoiding excessive levels of waste and residues, minimizing the depletion of resources, and assuring that the environment's capacity to absorb pollutants is not exceeded.
Cleaner products or clean products refers to consumer and industrial products that are less polluting and less harmful to the environment and less toxic and less harmful to human health.
Environmentally Safe Products, Environmentally Preferable Products, or Green Products
The terms environmentally safe products, environmentally preferable products, or green products refer to products that are less toxic and less harmful to human health and the environment when their polluting effects during their entire life cycle are considered.
Life cycle analysis is a study of the pollution generation characteristics and the opportunities for pollution prevention associated with the entire life cycle of a product or process. Any change in the product or process has implications for upstream stages (extraction and processing of raw materials, production and distribution of process inputs) and for downstream stages (including the components of a product, its use, and its ultimate disposal).
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1992, Pollution prevention 1991: Research program, EPA/600/R-92/189 (September). (Washington, D.C.: Office of
Research and Development).
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