Waste Minimization

EPA Data Are Severely Flawed Gao ID: PEMD-91-21 August 5, 1991

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Survey of Hazardous Waste Generators (NSHWG) data, focusing on data quality problems.

GAO found that: (1) EPA initially developed three national data sets to provide information about industry's progress in minimizing hazardous waste, but two sets failed to adequately integrate the data, making NSHWG the primary EPA data source; (2) survey data items measured waste-generation amounts only for 1985 and 1986, and some waste handlers believed that the use of those 2 years would not accurately represent the waste production trend; (3) one waste-generating firm suggested that the measure of hazardous waste generation standardized by production did not adequately document waste minimization progress; (4) a lack of correspondence between two items measuring the amount of hazardous waste generated in 1986 suggested that the estimated waste-generation total was unreliable; (5) EPA indicated that it could not analyze the production process or waste source, since the survey's design limited its ability to obtain an adequate amount of detailed information; (6) between 1985 and 1986, 60 percent of the generator survey respondents did not report one or more of the data elements necessary to calculate a change in waste generation per unit of production; and (7) tracking progress on hazardous waste minimization for a longer duration would provide a more accurate estimate of program effects and establish trend lines.


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