Toxic Substances

EPA Needs More Reliable Source Reduction Data and Progress Measures Gao ID: RCED-94-93 September 23, 1994

In 1990, Congress passed the Pollution Prevention Act, which authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help companies implement source reduction techniques. The act also requires companies to report their results to EPA's Toxic Release inventory, which includes data on releases of more than 300 toxic chemicals. This report reviews EPA's (1) progress in implementing source reduction reporting requirements, (2) results under a voluntary program to reduce emissions of 17 highly toxic chemicals, and (3) activities to disseminate source reduction information to meet state and industrial needs.

GAO found that: (1) EPA has implemented source reduction reporting requirements by adding a source reduction and recycling report to the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI); (2) although the TRI report attempts to provide EPA with comprehensive information on companies' source reduction activities, the value of this information is questionable because companies are not required to report on the quantities of waste prevented or reduced or account for the different methods used to estimate waste; (3) EPA has not committed to collecting additional data because it is not required to do so; (4) EPA needs to collect additional data to provide a credible basis for evaluating progress in source reduction; (5) the effectiveness of the EPA voluntary industrial toxics project is uncertain due to limited company participation and data accuracy and reporting problems; (6) although EPA has given companies flexibility and incentives to voluntarily join the program, many have not; (7) although EPA recognizes that the exchange of information is a key element in promoting its pollution prevention strategy and provides states and companies with the technical information needed to implement source reduction programs, industry and states believe additional information is needed to better identify and make use of source reduction technology; and (8) EPA has developed guidelines and implemented several other actions to expand its dissemination of source reduction information.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

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