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What is Pollution Prevention (P2)?

Pollution prevention (P2) means reducing or eliminating the volume or toxicity of materials, pollutants or wastes at the source so that they never become an air, land, or water waste stream in the first place. P2 is a proactive approach to environmental management. It’s not the same as pollution control or waste management, which is managing pollution at the “end of the pipe” after its

Pollution Prevention IS:

Pollution Prevention IS NOT:

  • good housekeeping
  • inventory control
  • in-process recycling
  • product substitution
  • process changes
  • waste segregation
  • disposal
  • off-site recycling
  • pollution treatment
  • end-of-pipe control

Pollution prevention has wide-ranging environmental and economic benefits, because it gets at the waste and inefficiencies that are the root causes of pollution. P2’s health and environmental benefits include cleaner air and water, fewer greenhouse gas emissions, less toxic waste to manage, less solid waste going to landfills, greater workplace safety, and better stewardship of natural resources. P2’s economic benefits include greater business efficiency, increased competitiveness, less exposure to risks, and reduced costs for regulatory monitoring, fees and paperwork. If you don’t create pollution, you don’t have to spend money regulating it, handling it, storing it, treating it, or disposing of it.


Pollution prevention can be accomplished by the following methods:

  • Design.  Make products, buildings, manufacturing systems and services resource-efficient throughout their life cycle by incorporating environmental considerations in their design.
  • Process Changes. Rethink manufacturing and service processes to reduce production waste, cutting both pollution and costs.
  • Materials Substitution. Use alternative and less-toxic materials for cleaning, coating, lubrication and other processes.  Achieve equivalent results while preventing costly hazardous waste generation, air emissions, and worker health risks.
  • Materials Reuse. One company’s wastes may be another company’s raw materials. Finding markets for them reduces solid waste and virgin resource use, increases seller income, and provides buyers with an economical resource supply.
  • Resource Efficiency. Use energy, water and other inputs more efficiently to keep air and water clean, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, cut operating costs, and improve productivity.
  • Improved Work Practices. Rethink day-to-day operations and maintenance activities to root out wasteful management practices that drive up costs and cause pollution.


Pollution prevention became a national policy with the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990. The Act established the waste management hierarchy:

  • Source reduction & prevention (high benefit to the environment)
  • Recycling (medium benefit to the environment)
  • Treatment (low benefit to the environment)
  • Disposal (least benefit to the environment)


Now many state, regional and local agencies and organizations, along with the federal government, promote P2 through technical assistance and education services for businesses, agencies, institutions, and the public.  For more information, see:

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