California Air Resources Board
Pollution Prevention Guide

This page last reviewed July 27, 2009

Many businesses have activities that create some type of waste or pollution that adversely affects our environment. Traditionally, pollution into the air, water, and soil has been managed through end-of-the-pipe controls that are mandated by environmental regulations. In recent years there has been an increased awareness for preventing pollution before it begins. Environmental agencies are now working more closely with businesses to promote pollution prevention practices that minimize waste generation and, consequently, reduce regulatory compliance costs.
What is Pollution Prevention?
Pollution prevention is a multimedia approach that eliminates or reduces the generation of pollutants within a business's operating activities rather than controlling those pollutants at the point of discharge into the environment. Multimedia refers to some combination of air, water, soil, and the workplace environment. Pollutants and wastes that are emitted or disposed of at a facility are released into one or more of these media. The goal of using pollution prevention practices at a business is to reduce the total amount of waste rather than transferring wastes from one medium to another. In other words, the business assumes the responsibility of reducing the by-products generated in order to minimize passing by-products on to another site.
Benefits of Pollution Prevention
Pollution prevention is good for both businesses and the environment. Incorporating pollution prevention practices at a business can result in big savings. The cost savings will come from increases in operating efficiency, reduction in the amount of waste to be treated and disposed, decreases in regulatory and compliance costs, and reductions to workers' exposure.
The environment benefits from pollution prevention practices because they conserve our natural resources, reduce the amount of pollutants entering the air, water, and soil, and reduce the amount of solid and hazardous waste needing treatment and disposal.
Pollution Prevention Practices
A business can achieve substantial reductions in energy use, waste generation, and pollution through the use of one or more of the following pollution prevention practices.
On-Site Recycling / Reusing Material: This practice involves reusing materials on-site that are the source of pollution. An example is filtering and recirculating cleaning solvents.
Material Substitution: This technique involves substituting highly polluting materials with more environmentally friendly materials. Examples are replacing a toxic material with a less toxic material, or replacing a solvent-based paint with a water-based paint.
Equipment or Process Modification: This process involves redesigning equipment, production lines, or the product to enable a business to reduce waste, energy and pollution by increasing the efficiency of material use.
Improved Housekeeping: Improved material handling, storage, and management practices may result in substantial reductions in waste, spills, fugitive emissions, and leaks. Simple steps such as improving recordkeeping and maintenance checks can really make a difference.
Work Place Training / Incentives: Training employees and providing incentives and bonuses to employees to encourage them to conscientiously prevent pollution motivates people to look for solutions.        
Where to Begin
Once a business owner decides to implement a pollution prevention program, an evaluation should be conducted on current waste management practices. To do this, a business should identify waste streams entering all media, list and evaluate pollution prevention alternatives for each waste stream, select the best pollution prevention practices for each waste stream, and implement those practices.
A number of pollution prevention resources are available to help businesses begin using pollution prevention practices. Source-specific fact sheets, pamphlets, workbooks, and other written and video material are available to explain multimedia pollution prevention practices to specific types of businesses. This type of information can be found through trade associations, business assistance organizations, and federal, state, and local environmental agencies.
Further Information
For a list of additional Internet sites with pollution prevention information, please visit ARB's Pollution Prevention Program. Information can also be accessed by calling our Business Assistance Helpline at (800) 242-4450.