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What Has Toxic Release Inventory Data Ever Done For Me?

June 11, 2013

Businesses filling out Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data reports for the upcoming July 1st deadline should be aware that the EPA is trying to make the process as painless and useful as possible. In addition to the required reporting fields for waste management data, TRI reports now offer a more robust opportunity for businesses to describe their pollution prevention activities. While this voluntary reporting requires some additional diligence from the employee filling out the database, your business may enjoy some benefits from this extra finger-tapping.

Primarily, defining pollution prevention initiatives serves as an opportunity for businesses to highlight and track the success of their innovations. Businesses can “put their best foot forward,” said Dave Sarokin, a USEPA P2 representative, during a recent webinar on “New Ways to Showcase Sustainability in Your 2012 TRI Report.” Through TRI’s tools, businesses can tell a compelling story about their innovations. For any business, such transparency communicates a positive message to the surrounding community. And for businesses reporting to larger headquarter operations, TRI reports can showcase and record some of your accomplishments.

Businesses can now report detailed information on initiatives related to source reduction, re-use, energy extraction, or treatment. While the EPA encourages source reduction initiatives as the primary P2 goal, the organization encourages transparent reporting of any initiatives that prevent toxic chemicals from entering the environment. Businesses can also document any barriers they faced over the past year that prevented them from implementing P2 initiatives.

TRI.NET is a downloadable application that lets you filter data by geography, sector, and chemical. (From www.epa.gov/tri/tridotnet)

In addition to assisting company record keeping, the TRI tool provides an opportunity for businesses to see what others in their sector, and other sectors, have done to prevent or reduce waste. Sorokin suggests that one of the primary drivers to achieving pollution prevention goals is for businesses to access good information and resources about pollution prevention techniques and barriers. The TRI tool serves as one of the best ways for businesses to see what is happening in the world of P2, to see what works and what doesn’t.

Sarokin also speaks enthusiastically about the relevant purpose of the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990. The goal of the act is not to regulate. “The purpose,” Sorokin says, “is to encourage the goal of pollution prevention” across the nation – in households, the agricultural sector, hospitals, schools, and manufacturing sectors.

For businesses curious about the new reporting options, the EPA’s 2013 webinar is a good place to start.

 

Other Resources:

  • The TRI P2 Tipsheet provides practical info and tips on reporting P2 initiatives.
  • For those wanting to dig into TRI data more deeply, TRI.NET is a downloadable application that allows you to select, sort, and filter TRI data by a number of useful categories (geography, sector, chemical, etc.) This tool also allows you to combine TRI with other data sources, display results on a map, and export your results into other applications for further analysis.
  • Links to TRI P2 materials, as well as many other resources useful to P2 practitioners, are available on GLRPPR’s Pollution Prevention 101 LibGuide. The guide is continuously updated to give you the tools to help you do your job better.

 

Feedback?

If your business provides TRI reports, what do you think is useful about them? Useless? How could the reporting process be improved? What other information would you like to see businesses capture or report?

 

– Cyrus Philbrick

Communications Manager

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