Pollution Prevention as Public Policy: An Assessment

By Helfand, Gloria E. | Contemporary Economic Policy, October 1994 | Go to article overview

Pollution Prevention as Public Policy: An Assessment


Helfand, Gloria E., Contemporary Economic Policy


I. INTRODUCTION

In 1990, Congress passed the Pollution Prevention Act, which lays out a hierarchy of approaches for firms as they address pollution problems. Under the law, the optimal strategy is to prevent or reduce pollution at the source "whenever feasible." If pollution cannot be prevented, recycling is the next most desirable alternative. If these options fail, pollution treatment is next in priority. Only if all other approaches fail, disposal or other release to the environment is a last resort. The law goes on to require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to promote source reduction activities and to collect data on firms' adoption of these techniques, and it provides for matching grants to states for pollution prevention programs.

This pollution prevention hierarchy represents a hierarchy of benefits based on the idea that avoiding pollution has major advantages over treating and disposing of it (Council on Environmental Quality, 1991, pp. 80-81; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1991, p. 8). Not creating pollution--for instance, reducing the use of toxic chemicals in a production process--is almost certainly more environmentally benign than disposing of it. Treating pollution may not eliminate it, but may instead transfer it from one disposal medium to another (such as the sludge produced at sewage treatment plants being sent to landfills for disposal. Not creating pollution in the first place reduces this "multimedia" problem. These and other benefits reflect the technical difficulties of solving pollution problems and the desirability of avoiding them.

Pollution prevention has attracted tremendous interest from both the public and private sectors. Federal, state, and local agencies have instituted a wide number of programs aimed at promoting source reduction and recycling by private companies. Such programs include research, information collection and provision, financial incentive programs, and regulation. A number of businesses have responded by establishing pollution prevention programs, examining their production and disposal processes for ways to reduce pollutants, and substituting less hazardous substances for toxics. EPA and other agencies still are developing consistent methods for measuring progress in pollution prevention. Evidence suggests that a number of firms are taking source reduction seriously and are achieving results.

Pollution prevention clearly has a great deal to offer as a way of addressing environmental problems. Source reduction may be the only effective method of reducing damages from some substances, such as nuclear waste, that may be difficult or impossible to treat. The question remains, though, whether the pollution prevention hierarchy is the most effective way to control pollution. This paper examines the conditions under which this prioritizing makes sense as public policy and discusses when other forms of regulation may be more desirable.

Much of the literature on pollution prevention focuses on the technology, describing methods that some industries have used (e.g., Freeman et al., 1992). Many businesses, such as 3M, voluntarily have undertaken pollution prevention measures in the face of the rising costs of pollution control and waste disposal. In some cases, businesses not only have reduced pollution but also have reduced their costs of production by making their processes more efficient.[1] From an economic perspective, Lis and Chilton (1993) argue that zero pollution is no more attainable with pollution prevention than with tailpipe controls. Additionally, they cite evidence that companies are reluctant to pursue pollution prevention if they currently are in compliance with pollution control requirements and are profitable. Changing production processes is costly, so returns on these changes must be substantially positive to provide the incentive to revise practices. Kohn (1993) examines the possibility that zero pollution is attainable if a "clean" technology can be substituted for a polluting technology at a finite cost. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Pollution Prevention as Public Policy: An Assessment
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.