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October 18, 2007
Also appeared in print Oct. 22, 2007, p. 14


Toxic Turndown

Big facilities in U.S., Canada cut releases more than smaller, mid-sized ones

Cheryl Hogue

Larger industrial facilities in the U.S. and Canada are doing a better job of reducing releases of toxic chemicals than are small and medium-sized plants, says an analysis released on Oct. 18.

Reusing Toxics Table

Cuts in waste generation by large facilities drove the drop in toxic releases in the U.S. and Canada between 1998 and 2004, according to an annual report from the North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation (CEC). The analysis combines data from the U.S. Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) and Canada's National Pollutant Release Inventory.

Big facilities have cut waste and emissions, but the same is not true of smaller plants. While they individually release smaller amounts of toxics than a big plant, small and mid-sized facilities as a group substantially increased their releases between 1998 and 2004, the analysis says.

USEFUL SCRAP Metals in toxic wastes are recycled.

Large emitters, the report says, tend to participate in pollution prevention programs, while smaller facilities are less likely to do so.

"Industry and government action to limit chemical releases is showing steady progress," says Adrián Vázquez-Gálvez, CEC's executive director. Nonetheless, he says, "a large number of small and medium-size industrial facilities need to do a better job in reducing their waste and emissions if we are going to see even greater progress in North America."

The report also finds that more than a third of the 3.12 million metric tons of combined release of toxics in U.S. and Canada during 2004 was moved to recycling facilities. Of all the toxic waste that was sent for recycling in the two countries that year, copper and its compounds composed 31%, zinc and its compounds accounted for 20%, and lead and its compounds made up 15%.

Half of the two countries' combined toxic releases in 2004 were emitted to the air, the CEC report adds.

Vázquez-Gálvez says CEC is tracking the changes EPA made in late 2006 to TRI, which allows many U.S. facilities to provide fewer data about their toxic releases.??

Those changes leave Canada and Mexico with reporting systems that are "more sophisticated" than TRI, he tells C&EN. This could create pressure for those countries to follow EPA's footsteps and cut down on the amount of information they collect, he says.

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Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2009 American Chemical Society


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