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From Pollution to Prevention: A Progress

Report on Waste Reduction

June 1987

NTIS order #PB87-208062

Recommended Citation:
U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, From Pollution to Prevention: A
Progress Report on Waste Reduction–Special Report OTA-ITE-347 (Washington, DC:
U.S. Government Printing Office, June 1987).

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 87-619838

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents

U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402-9325
(order form on p. 55)

Public interest in protecting health and environment by preventing the gener-

ation of hazardous wastes and environmental pollutants is rising. Some compa-
nies are discovering that prevention is easier than they thought and that its eco-
nomic benefits come quickly. Much is happening; only eight months after the release
of the Office of Technology Assessment’s report, Serious Reduction of Hazardous
Waste, a great deal of new information is available. In particular, the Environmental
Protection Agency has delivered its report on waste minimization to Congress.
The Subcommittee on Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources of the
House Committee on Government Operations requested this special report to bring
into focus congressional policy options on reducing the generation of all hazard-
ous wastes and environmental pollutants. The report examines the effectiveness
of the limited Federal actions taken so far and summarizes what industry and State
and local governments have done to implement waste reduction. These programs
are encouraging, and they help us understand what congressional policy options
might accomplish, This special report discusses in greater detail several options
that first appeared in Serious Reduction of Hazardous Waste.
There is agreement between EPA and OTA on the basic benefits of waste re-
duction. However, OTA sees more waste reduction possible in the near-term and,
if the Federal government is to become more engaged with prevention, more need
for policy development, organizational change, and institutional commitment. OTA
places greater emphasis on the benefits of applying waste reduction in a multi-
media fashion to cover all wastes and pollutants regardless of whether or how they
are regulated.
Results from an innovative 2-year waste reduction program in Ventura County,
California, show how government can assist industry to reduce waste generation
and demonstrate that success in waste reduction is possible without traditional,
prescriptive regulations, This program, several State waste reduction programs,
and a lo-year-old Federal energy conservation program prove that in-plant techni-
cal assistance is an effective way to overcome obstacles to waste reduction.
Both industry and government benefit economically from waste reduction. The
study shows how the competitiveness of American industry and environmental
protection can be improved by devoting more resources to waste reduction and
thus quickly reducing the costs of pollution control.
Many people in industry and government assisted OTA in the preparation of
this work. A number of people reviewed a draft of this special report. As with all
OTA reports, however, the responsibility for its contents is OTA’s alone.


Reviewers–From Pollution to Prevention: A Progress Report on Waste Reduction

David Allen Steven Lester

National Campaign Against Citizen’s Clearinghouse for
Toxic Hazards Hazardous Wastes
Lee Dane David Leu
Massachusetts Department of California Department of Health Services
Environmental Managememt Richard MacLean
Ryan Delcambre General Electric Co.
Dow Chemical Co. Roger Schecter
Ken Geiser North Carolina Pollution Prevention
Tufts University Pays Program
Greg Hollad Russell Susag
E.I. du Pent de Nemours & Co. 3M
OTA Project Staff–From Pollution to Prevention:
A Progress Report on Waste Reduction

Lionel S. Johns, Assistant Director, OTA

Energy, Materials, and International Security Division

Audrey Buyrn, Manager

industry, Technology, and Employment Program

Joel S. Hirschhorn, Project Director

Kirsten U. Oldenburg, Assistant Project Director

Edna M. Thompson, Administrative Assistant

Diane D. White, Secretary


Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Background ......... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Definitions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
The Nature and Primacy of Waste Reduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
EPA’s Present and Future Commitment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ... 9
Policy Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Policy Options .. .. .. .. .. .., ... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Comparative Analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Areas of Agreement.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Areas of Disagreement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
In Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
Ambiguities in the EPA Report . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
Does EPA Regard Waste Reduction as the Option of Choice? . . . . . . . . . . . 32
Does EPA Require a New Congressional Mandate? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
Has EPA Made a Strong Commitment to a Major Waste Reduction
Effort?. ..,...... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
Policy Implications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42
Are There Advantages to a Completely New Type of Legislation? ...,.,. 44
What Could New Waste Reduction Legislation Include? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
What Might Be an Effective Level and Source offending? . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52

Box Page
A. Summary of Recommendations From EPA Report . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
B. Policy Excerpt From OTA Report Brief ....., . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
C. Waste Reduction and National Policy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
D. Unused Results in EPA’s Report Appendices Agree With
OTA’s Findings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
E. Recent Examples of Obstacles in the Private Sectorto
Waste Reduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
F. Burning Waste in Industrial Furnaces and Boilers Can Reduce Interest
in Waste Reduction . , . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . , . , . . . . . . . . , . . , . , . . . . . 28
G. What Language Best Protects the Environment: Volume and Toxicity,
Volume or Toxicity, or Degree of Hazard? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33

Figure No. Page
1. EPA Organization and Funding for Waste Minimization. . . . . . . . . . . ..., 31
2. End-of-Pipe Approach: Regulating the Regulations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ., 44

Table No. Page
I. Definitions Used in the Reports . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
2. Wastes Coveredby Reports and HSWA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
3. Funding Levels and Evaluations of EPA Waste Minimization Activities . 39

There is now a historic opportunity for the

United States to improve environmental pro- The Reader Is Cautioned To Pay Attention
tection while reducing industry’s costs. Apply- To The Exact Use of Terms In This Report
ing the concept of prevention to environmental Simply put, waste reduction always means
protection is a major change in thinking for cutting the generation of hazardous waste to
nearly everyone. The Federal Government, in- avoid its handling, treatment, or disposal and
dustry, and environmental interests have not waste minimization always is a broad um-
yet committed themselves to preventing rather brella term that includes waste reduction,
than controlling pollutants and wastes. recycling, and possibly waste treatment such
as incineration.
The conventional approach to improving As discussed in this report, definitions have
environmental protection is to impose more policy implications.
regulations and enforce them more firmly.
Progress has been made, but overall the envi-
ronmental results of this strategy have been dis-
appointing. Control technologies have failed to
perform as expected, and human failures have found that many waste reduction opportuni
compounded the problem. For example, it took ties remain.
a long time to recognize that land disposal of
Today waste reduction proceeds slowly—not
hazardous waste is usually not a safe option.
because of a lack of technology—but because
Economically, the conventional strategy in- it is inhibited by human, organizational, and
creases government spending and adds to the institutional obstacles in industry and govern-
competitive disadvantage of domestic manu- ment. Industry’s attention and resources go
facturing industries through high environ- chiefly to regulatory compliance. As the gov-
mental spending. In 1980, for example, capital ernment presses companies to fix the mistakes
investments in pollution control by American of the past, it provides little help to prevent prob-
industries as a percent of gross industrial do- lems for the future. Companies having the worst
mestic product was nearly four times greater competitiveness problems are the least likely
for the United States than for Japan and France to be able to examine and implement waste re-
and nearly three times greater than for West duction, even though they need it the most. Po-
Germany. Manufacturing industries in newly tential economic benefits are not being under-
industrializing nations such as South Korea and stood or captured systematically in industry.
Brazil have an even larger cost advantage be-
Moreover, recent changes in the Resource
cause of far fewer environmental regulatory re-
Conservation and Recovery Act and Superfund
send ambiguous and contradictory messages
OTA finds that a concerted national effort to EPA and industry about the priority of waste
to reduce the generation of hazardous wastes reduction. Use of the term waste minimization,
and environmental pollutants at their sources, broadly interpreted to include waste treatment,
whether they are regulated or not, is a logical and regulatory restrictions on land disposal are
next step in the development of a comprehen- driving capital investments to new waste treat-
sive environmental protection system for the ment capacity (e. g., incineration). These can
United States. According to recent reports by inadvertently restrict waste reduction, which
OTA and the Environmental Protection Agen- offers better environmental protection at lower
cy, waste reduction is the acknowledged envi- costs. Uncertainty about waste reduction and
ronmental option of choice and has unique and concerns about strains on waste management
undisputed environmental and economic bene- capacity may lead regulatory officials to relax
fits. Studies by OTA, EPA, and others have requirements for hazardous waste facilities.

Can enough waste reduction occur to de- Policy Option II:

crease near-term waste treatment needs? Not Institute a small Federal effort through existing
always and probably not under present circum- environmental statutes and regulatory programs
stances. Waste reduction can significantly de-
crease, but not eliminate, the need for waste This would limit reduction to certain regu-
treatment capacity. More explicit attention to lated wastes, pose administrative problems be-
waste reduction can help the public understand cause of many other congressionally mandated
which new waste management facilities are tasks to EPA, and have limited credibility be-
truly needed. cause existing environmental programs are not
expert about production processes and have
Congress faces clear but difficult choices. shown little interest in waste reduction. It might
However, nearly everyone agrees that prescrib- not significantly change what is now occurring.
ing waste reduction through regulation is tech-
nically infeasible and administratively imprac- Policy Option Ill:
tical. The OTA and EPA reports to Congress
Through new legislation, establish a separate
help bring three fundamental policy options
Federal program within EPA to support waste
into focus:
reduction and to provide national leadership.
Fund it and State programs by allocating sev-
Policy Option I: eral percent of EPA’s operating budget
Take no new action to directly help industry to
reduce waste generation A nonregulatory approach would address
many obstacles. It would assist American in-
Rely on current industry efforts. This im- dustry to learn by experience that reducing the
plicitly discounts obstacles to waste reduction generation of all wastes is technically feasible
that confront nearly all waste generators, like and in its own economic self-interest to do as
poor information on the exact sources of their soon as possible. A 5-year seed grants program
wastes and ways to reduce their generation. for State efforts could build on existing but
The valid basis for congressional and public limited State programs. Government funded in-
criticism of regulatory programs weakens their plant technical assistance and central sources
positive impacts on waste generators. Regula- of information, for example, could overcome
tory programs that are ineffective for their de- inertia and smooth a path from sole dependence
signed purposes are even more ineffective in on costly end-of-pipe regulations to a dual envi-
causing comprehensive waste reduction. Waste ronmental strategy that includes voluntary,
reduction does not typically prevail over other comprehensive waste reduction. Increased cor-
traditional responses to rising environmental porate profits from waste reduction savings are
costs and liabilities, such as changes in pollu- likely to result in sufficiently increased tax rev-
tion control technologies, acceptance of high enues to rapidly offset the cost of a Federal pro-
and avoidable costs, and, in exceptional cases, gram, possibly in as little as 1 year.
plant closings.

Background report supports the near-term use of a regula-

tory approach for waste reduction that would,
After the Office of Technology Assessment in some way, prescribe industry actions. Both
(OTA) released its report Serious Reduction of reports support the use of a nonregulatory tech-
Hazardous Waste,1 the Environmental Protec- nical assistance program to help industry re-
tion Agency (EPA) delivered its mandated re- duce waste generation. EPA recommends tech-
port Minimization of Hazardous Waste2 to Con- nical and information assistance to industry
gress. Congressman Mike Synar, the Chairman and States, implemented by existing EPA pro-
of the Subcommittee on Environment, Energy, grams, as its near-term waste minimization ap-
and Natural Resources of the House Commit- proach. In the long term, EPA recommends an
tee on Government Operations subsequently re- assessment of the information collected in the
quested OTA to analyze the EPA report and short term so as to better inform Congress by
to describe “how EPA’s findings and conclu- 1990 on the need for authority to mandate ways
sions differ from those of OTA” with the em- to reduce wastes. As part of the next reauthor-
phasis on “differences that either implicitly or ization of the Resource Conservation and
explicitly support different congressional ac- Recovery Act (RCRA), EPA will suggest any
tions” on waste reduction. This OTA special necessary changes in the existing waste mini-
report not only compares the OTA and EPA mization reporting requirements. The OTA re-
reports but also provides Congress with new port provides specific policy options for the im-
information on waste reduction and a sense of plementation of a major Federal nonregulatory
the quickening national interest in it. waste reduction program, if the congressional
Both previous reports portray waste reduc- goal is comprehensive and rapid waste reduc-
tion as: 1) an option with many environmental tion. It is based largely, but not exclusively, on
and economic benefits compared to manage- in-plant technical assistance. The OTA options
ment and regulatory options that deal with include ways to address institutional commit-
waste that is already generated, 2) technically ment and implementation at the Federal and
and economically feasible with current science State levels by, for example, establishing: 1) a
and technology, and 3) in limited use by indus- Federal grants program to the States to support
try because of a number of obstacles in indus- technical assistance, information and technol-
try and government. Since this special report ogy transfer, education and training, and ge-
focuses on policy options, the policy summaries neric R&D on commonly used processes and
from the original reports have been reproduced. materials; and 2) an EPA Office of Waste Re-
Box A is the summary of recommendations duction with an Assistant Administrator to pro-
from the EPA report, and box B is the portion vide Federal leadership and advocacy within
of the summary of the OTA report that deals EPA.
with policy options. Congress has not explicitly said that EPA’s
Even though the two reports used different low priority for waste reduction is inconsist-
terms and covered different waste universes, ent with the regulatory programs EPA must
some general observations about public policy carry out nor has Congress directed EPA to
choices facing Congress can be made. Neither spend significant resources on waste reduction,
Congress has not yet debated a major program
IU. S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, Serious Re-
of the type discussed by OTA, Thus, the pur-
duction of Hazardous Waste, OTA-lTE-317 (Washington, DC: pose of this report is to bring the critical policy
U.S. Government Printing Office, September 1986). choices into focus. No attempt is made here to
‘U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Report to Congress:
Minimization of Hazardous Waste, EPA1530-SW-033 (Washing-
summarize the detailed technical results of the
ton, DC: EPA, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, two studies; the original reports should be con-
October 1986). sulted for that purpose.

Box A.—Summary of Recommendations From EPA Report


Box B.—Policy Excerpt From OTA Report Brief

* * * *
concessions from existing pollution control regula-
So far government has not required waste reduc- tory requirements, or 5) create and use independent
tion. OTA finds that it would be extraordinarily State Waste Reduction Boards to implement pro-
difficult for government to set and enforce waste grams. Setting a national waste reduction goal of
reduction standards for a myriad of industrial perhaps 10 percent annually could help convert the
processes. The impact on industry, particularly on long stated importance of waste reduction into a
troubled manufacturing sectors, could be substan- true priority and reduce annual environmental
tial. Alternatively, the United States could move to spending substantially, ultimately by billions of
an economically sensible environmental protection dollars.
strategy based on both pollution control (waste
management) and pollution prevention (waste re-
duction) with the Federal Government providing
leadership and assistance in the following ways. Definitions Used in This Report
Waste Reduction:
First, through policy development, education,
In-plant practices that reduce, avoid, or eliminate
and oversight, Congress could help industry and the the generation of hazardous waste so as to reduce
Nation profit from seeing waste reduction not as risks to health and environment. Actions taken
some unique technology, but as a field ready for away from the waste generating activity, includ-
innovation engineering and management. These op- ing waste recycling or treatment of wastes after they
portunities are embedded in every part of the in- are generated, are not considered waste reduction.
dustrial production system, There is no way to Also, an action that merely concentrates the haz-
predetermine the amount of waste reduction that ardous content of a waste to reduce waste volume
is possible; its technical and economic feasibility de- or dilutes it to reduce degree of hazard is not con-
pend on the characteristics, circumstances, and sidered waste reduction. This definition is meant
goals of specific waste generators. Success in reduc- to be consistent with the goal of preventing the
generation of waste at its source rather than con-
ing waste depends on the ability of organizations trolling, treating, or managing waste after its
to modernize, innovate, and cut costs, thereby in- generation.
creasing profits and reducing long-term liabilities.
Thus waste reduction could be used as a measure Hazardous Waste:
of performance as energy efficiency and productivi- All nonproduct hazardous outputs from an in-
ty often are. dustrial operation into all environmental media,
even though they may be within permitted or li-
Second, there are a number of possible legisla- censed limits. This is much broader than the legal
tive actions that could clarify the definition of waste definition of hazardous solid waste in the Resource
reduction, spur better collection of information on Conservation and Recovery Act, its amendments,
waste reduction, and encourage waste generators and subsequent regulations. Hazardous refers to
to devote more attention to the subject. If the Fed- harm to human health or the environment and is
eral public policy goal is rapid and comprehensive broader than the term “toxic.” For example, wastes
hazardous waste reduction, then a strategy based that are hazardous because of their corrosivity,
flammability, explosiveness, or infectiousness are not
on government leadership and assistance rather
normally considered toxic.
than on prescriptive requirements is likely to be the
most effective. For example, Congress could: 1)
create an Office of Waste Reduction with an Assis-
tant Administrator within EPA, 2) create a grants Copies of the OTA report, *’Serious Reduction of Haz-
program to develop generic or widely transferable ardous Waste: For Pollution Prevention and Industrial
technical support for waste reduction, 3) through Efficiency, ” are available from the U.S. Government
Printing Office. The GPO stock number is 052-003-
new comprehensive waste reduction legislation re- 01048-8; the price is $12.00. Copies of the report for con-
quire detailed reporting by industry on past reduc- gressional use are available by calling 4-8996. Summaries
tion actions and plans for future efforts, 4) reward of reports are available at no charge from the Office of
and facilitate waste reduction by offering industry Technology Assessment.

A discussion of agreement and differences plus all forms of recycling and treatment (such
between the two reports follows this introduc- as incineration or other processes that destroy,
tory section. The third section analyzes some detoxify, or reduce the volume of waste
internal inconsistencies in the EPA report. The streams) that occur after wastes have been gen-
last section of this special report is a discus- erated. In OTA’s report such post-generation
sion of four critical policy choices confronting actions (recycling and treatment) are waste
Congress. Included is an updated discussion management. It is generally accepted that even
of the same policy options presented in the OTA good, improved, and necessary waste manage-
report. ment offers less certain environmental and pub-
lic health protection than waste reduction. Such
Definitions waste management is particularly better than
land disposal of untreated waste. Waste reduc-
One important difference between the OTA tion, however, prevents pollution instead of
and EPA reports needs to be understood at the controlling how much hazardous substance is
outset. The OTA report on waste reduction de- released into the environment.
fined that term as:
In this special report, waste reduction is used
in-plant practices that reduce, avoid, or elim- exactly as the OTA report uses the term. Waste
inate the generation of hazardous wastes so minimization is used in this special report as
as to reduce risks to health and the envi- the national policy statement in HSWA defines
ronment. it (see box C). That is, the majority of waste
Waste reduction includes actions taken in in- generators believe that waste minimization cov-
dustrial plants, such as changes in technology ers actions that include waste reduction plus
and processes, plant operations and proce- the recycling and treatment of hazardous
dures, and raw materials that reduce the wastes after they have been generated. These
amount and toxicity of waste before it is gen- terms and their different definitions lead to
erated. The OTA definition excludes recycling different decisions by waste generators and
as true waste reduction unless it occurs within different policy goals and implications, which
the parameters of a specific process so that are discussed at length later in this report.
waste does not exit the operation. This in-
process recycling, which is an integral part of The Nature and Primacy of Waste Reduction
a process or operation, is not what most peo-
ple mean by waste recycling. This special report does not address recycling
and waste treatment extensively. In an earlier
Congress directed EPA to report on waste report4 OTA supported the shift in policy away
minimization. EPA said that, for purposes of from land disposal toward better waste man-
its report, waste minimization includes waste agement, later adopted by Congress in HSWA.
reduction plus recycling of wastes that have However, in that earlier study OTA acknowl-
been generated whether on or off the site of edged that waste reduction was the option
waste generation. That is, conventional waste generators should pursue first, and only waste
recycling includes the handling and transport reduction was examined in OTA’s recent re-
of waste to a facility where the waste, or part port. Both the EPA and OTA reports support,
of it, is used beneficially as a material or some- by analysis and information, the unique bene-
times as an energy source. However, EPA has fits of voluntary waste reduction by industry.
interpreted the Hazardous and Solid Waste In fact, no one disputes waste reduction’s wide-
Amendments Act of 1984 (HSWA, also called ranging advantages in principle. The issues are
the 1984 RCRA Amendments) definition of
waste minimization to include waste reduction,
4U. S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, Technol-
ogies and Management Strategies for Hazardous Waste Control,
EPA primarily used the term source reduction; its definition OTA-M-196 [Springfield, VA: National Technical Information
of the term appears in table 1. Service, March 1983).

all about practice: How much waste reduction

Box C.—Waste Reduction and is going on now? How much could go on, and
National Policy when? Slow, token, or narrowly applied waste
“The Congress hereby declares it to be na- reduction can lead to a false sense of accom-
tional policy of the United States that, wher- plishment; obstacles remain unaddressed and
ever feasible, the generation of hazardous opportunities are missed.
waste is to be reduced or eliminated as expe- Waste reduction is the best choice, when it
ditiously as possible. Waste nevertheless
generated should be treated, stored, or di- is technically and economically feasible. As the
sposed of so as to minimize the present and environmental option of choice, waste reduc-
future threat to human health and the en- tion should be examined first. We need to cre-
vironment.” ate the climate in which the best mix of waste
reduction and waste management will grow.
From the Resource Conservation and Re- The problem is that generators often assume
covery Act, as amended by the U.S. Congress
in November 1984. This policy statement is rather than ascertain that waste reduction is in-
supported by waste minimization provisions feasible and jump to recycling, the next solu-
also added to the act. tion to consider, or treatment, the third option
in the hierarchy of choices. Demand for public
accountability for decisions on waste reduction

Photo credit’ Copyright 1985 Greenpeace/Lawrence (used with permission)

Example of public’s concerns about toxic waste and reduction


is bound to increase because the issue is now ous waste and pollution. Waste reduction
on the agenda of many grassroots public inter- makes it easier to achieve environmental goals.
est groups. Waste reduction is an opportunity Still, waste reduction has received little atten-
for public policy to combine the environmen- tion within the context of RCRA (or other envi-
talism of the 1960s with the economic sensibil- ronmental programs) by Congress, by EPA, or
ities of the 1980s. by critics. Except for a few pioneering compa-
nies, industry seems largely unaware of the im-
Waste reduction accomplishes one of the
mediate feasibility of waste reduction and the
basic objectives of regulatory reform because
need to reexamine how it can be best used. In-
it cuts industry’s costs and reduces the amount
dividual cases of successful waste reduction
of materials and situations that have to be reg-
often cited today do not prove comprehensive
ulated. Widespread waste reduction alleviates
waste reduction on a company or industry ba-
the negative environmental effects of techni-
sis. And, the movement away from land dis-
cal inadequacies of regulations, loopholes in
posal has not necessarily resulted in a broad
regulations, and poor compliance with regula-
or large shift to waste reduction. Despite some
tions. It also alleviates private and public in-
favorable conditions in the marketplace, waste
efficiencies caused by a complicated web of
reduction faces stiff competition from other re-
different and sometimes inconsistent environ-
sponses to rising costs and regulations. These
mental statutes and programs. These problems
other responses include building incinerators
are found in all environmental programs but
and not complying, or delayed compliance, with
are particularly acute for the RCRA program
which every recent examination has found to
be in trouble.’ Problems in the regulatory sys- Waste reduction is more than just another
tem limit its ability to induce waste reduction environmental protection option. It offers
as an alternative to increasing regulatory costs American industry a positive return on invest-
and liabilities. If the regulatory system is not ments that reduce environmental costs in the
meeting its stated environmental protection short term and large liabilities in the long term,
goals effectively, then it is unlikely to be effec- but only if costs and liabilities are used correctly
tive in causing generators to comprehensively in decisionmaking. A few pioneering compa-
reduce waste generation. Decisionmaking often nies have shown waste reduction to be an ef-
ignores the economic benefits of waste reduc- fective way to modernize plants, to improve
tion, partly because they seem uncertain. A po- profitability and competitiveness, and to en-
tential benefit is not necessarily an effective in- hance the public perception that industry can
centive for waste reduction. Generators stay act proactively to solve environmental prob-
in the regulatory system not only because they lems. Dow Chemical, for example, in its new
have to but also because they do not understand WRAP—Waste Reduction Always Pays—pro-
how to leave it, even if only partially, through gram sends a simple, unambiguous message to
waste reduction. its employees: waste can be reduced, you can
reduce waste, and you will be rewarded if you
Waste reduction does not imply either out-
do. But waste reduction is a new public policy
right or incremental elimination of the current
concept in the arena of industrial competi-
environmental regulatory system or of hazard-
%ee U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Report to
Congress—EPA Activities and Accomplishments Under the Re- Although it is not possible to accurately quan-
source Conservation and Recovery Act: Fiscal Years 1980 to 1985, tify current waste reduction or forecast future
EPA/530-SW-86-027 (Washington, DC: EPA, Office of Solid Waste waste reduction, OTA, EPA, and several other
and Emergency Response, July 1986); U.S. Congress, General
Accounting Office, Hazardous Waste: EPA Has Made Limited major recent reports6 conclude that substan-
Progress in Determining the Wastes To Be Regulated, oNational Academy of Sciences, Reducing Hazardous Waste
GAO/RCED-87-27 (Gaithersburg, MD: U.S. General Accounting Generation (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1985);
Office, December 1986); and James E. McCarthy and Mark E. David Sarokin, et al., Cutting Chemical Wastes (New York: IN-
Anthony Reisch, Library of Congress, Congressional Research FORM, 1985); The Environmental Defense Fund, Approaches
Service, “Hazardous Waste Fact Book,” 87-56 ENR, Jan. 30,1987. to Source Reduction (Berkeley, CA: EDF, June 1986).

tial amounts of waste reduction are possible of the process more convenient than waste re-
in the near term. However, with few exceptions, duction in the middle. Moreover, production
everybody in industry and government is so people are reluctant—with good reason—to
busy trying to manage wastes that are gener- modify processes that are operating profitably.
ated that they have little time and money to try Only education and training and better infor-
to generate less. Although the environmental mation about the ways to reduce waste gener-
regulatory system contributes to this misplaced ation can overcome this inertia and fear.
priority, it also results from insufficient focus
on waste reduction by industry as an element Because waste minimization means many
of strategic planning, cost-cutting, and mod- things, people in industry and government are
ernization. Government has not been as help- not necessarily committed to waste reduction.
ful as it could, Congress has not established the EPA’s future actions would be clearer if the
primacy of waste reduction, even though the EPA report had stated whether a major Fed-
HSWA national policy statement is consistent eral waste reduction program is necessary be-
with it (see box C). There seems to be a feeling cause industry is not doing enough or if it had
that waste reduction will happen on its own. explicitly requested new statutory authority,
funding, and organizational change in EPA to
EPA’s Present and Future Commitment implement a waste reduction program.

The OTA study found that the Federal Gov- Although EPA did not explicitly say that a
ernment spends very little money on waste re- major Federal waste reduction program was
duction, less than 1 percent of its environmental not necessary, the EPA report’s recommenda-
budget. Almost all spending goes, instead, to tions are not consistent with a major program.
controlling pollutants that are generated. And Moreover, in the absence of a new congres-
within the context of waste minimization, most sional mandate, EPA is unlikely to undertake
of EPA’s resources go to treatment and recy- a major waste reduction program with the fund-
cling as alternatives to land disposal, instead ing, institutional commitment, and organiza-
of supporting waste reduction. Industry follows tional importance that would make it success-
EPA’s lead, ful. To some extent this impression may be
caused by the direction HSWA gave to EPA for
The definition of waste minimization used the waste minimization study. Congress
by EPA (waste reduction and recycling) for the seemed concerned primarily with whether to
purposes of its report to Congress differs from use a traditional prescriptive regulatory ap-
previous EPA actions and from HSWA (waste proach for waste minimization (e.g., best pro-
reduction, recycling, and treatment). This dual duction technology or percentage waste reduc-
definition can cause confusion, Waste minimi- tion requirements). HSWA said nothing
zation can include up to three distinctly differ- explicitly about setting up a major nonregula-
ent activities, and people in industry and gov- tory Federal program to encourage and assist
ernment naturally give more attention to waste reduction or to identify how some gov-
familiar treatment technologies and recycling ernment programs and industrial practices may
than to waste reduction. A critical but often hinder waste reduction. OTA, guided by spe-
overlooked fact is that waste reduction must cific committee requests for its study, exam-
be implemented by production people and not ined these issues closely. EPA, however, guided
by those with environmental responsibilities. by HSWA did not.
But, not all production people feel pressured
or required or are willing and able to tackle In its fiscal year 1988 budget request, EPA
waste reduction, They are more familiar with allocates only $398,000 for waste minimization.
treatment and recycling, which are marketed This amount is about 0.03 percent of EPA’s to-
commercially as services or equipment. Pro- tal operating budget of $1.5 billion and is less
duction people focus on the product not on than the approximate $550,000 that EPA spent
waste, and they find pollution control at the end in fiscal year 1986 on its waste minimization

report. 7 EPA first noted the environmental Neither Congress nor EPA has integrated
primacy of waste reduction (using that term) waste reduction with other tactics to achieve
in 1976, but it has relied on the marketplace a balanced environmental protection strategy.
to implement the concept. There has been no congressional discussion of
whether the Federal Government needs to de-
Although it has recognized the importance
sign waste reduction policy differently from
of State efforts, EPA has not concluded that a
pollution control policy. In the recent reauthor-
separate, comprehensive Federal waste reduc-
izations of RCRA (HSWA, 1984) and Superfund
tion grants program is necessary to support and
(The Superfund Amendments and Reauthori-
enhance those efforts. OTA examined State ef-
zation Act of 1986, or SARA), Congress directed
forts and concluded that for them to be effec-
EPA and the States to assess the Nation’s fu-
tive nationwide in reducing the generation of
ture waste management capabilities. Congress
hazardous waste, there should be more of them,
did not, however, direct them to recognize or
they should receive more financial support, and
examine the potentially significant contribu-
they should be focused on waste reduction
tion of waste reduction.
rather than good waste management. State non-
regulatory programs recognize important ob- The most significant Federal actions to date
stacles facing waste generators but would ben- are the strong policy statement in HSWA on
efit from a Federal policy framework that the merits of waste reduction (see box C) and
provided national leadership focused on waste several minor actions required of EPA and in-
reduction. dustry. Waste reduction is nearly entirely in
the hands of the private sector, except in a few
To sum up, a major Federal program that ad-
places where local or State governments have
dresses public and private obstacles to waste
acted to persuade and assist industry to reduce
reduction could lead to more expeditious and
waste generation.
comprehensive waste reduction. Many of the
findings in EPA’s report are consistent with re- The founder and director of the National
sults of other studies and could support a seri- Roundtable of State Waste Reduction Programs
ous waste reduction effort. has addressed the need for Federal action:
The states are clearly the leaders in this
Policy Issues [waste reduction] effort and require high-level,
well-funded and focused programs at the fed-
Congressional Action eral level. EPA has not met that chal-
Although waste minimization was added to lenge , . . waste reduction] cannot be ap-
RCRA in 1984, not much attention has been proached as a panacea for zero wastes and
paid to waste reduction. From a public policy should not be entered into without a firm com-
perspective, waste reduction is in the issue de- mitment to change the traditional pollution
control mentality in recognition of reduction
velopment stage at the Federal level, even options. Government’s role in this regard re-
though it has moved considerably beyond that quires an innovative shift in environmental
at the State level—at least in a few States. No protection to include positive technical assis-
major Federal environmental statute or pro- tance and financial incentives in addition to
gram has ever paid much attention to waste re- regulations and enforcement. The need for this
duction. shift is particularly acute at the federal level.8

0TA estimated in its report that EPA spent a total of $1,8 mil-
lion on waste minimization in fiscal year 1986. That amount in-
cluded the cost of the EPA report, plus research funds spent
by the Office of Research and Development or granted to out-
side research organizations and States, not all of which were
officially labeled “waste minimization” funds. Of this total for 8Roger N. Schecter, “Summary of State Waste Reduction Ef-
waste minimization, OTA estimated that about $800,000 was forts,” Hazardous and Solid Waste Minimization and Recycling
spent by EPA on waste reduction. Report, March 1987, p. 12.

Legislative Approach government and industry. But what does high

priority mean for waste reduction? Waste re-
Should Congress now decide to emphasize
waste reduction, the important issues are duction has always had high theoretical pri-
whether to consider a legislative initiative and, ority, but its priority has never been made evi-
if so, whether to do it within the context of dent by industrywide actions. Industry by itself
RCRA or through a new statute, cannot overcome all the obstacles to waste re-
duction. Government’s regulatory programs
New legislation may be appropriate because cause some of the critical ones. Other obsta-
waste reduction is distinctly different from cles center around limited industrial resources
activities currently authorized and carried out and management’s short-term perspectives and
under existing environmental statutes. Waste strategies.
reduction is:
A window of opportunity is opening for a
● an upstream or front-end pollution preven- historic shift in focus on environmental protec-
tion strategy different technically from the tion. Government programs dealing with clean
end-of-pipe pollution control actions re- air and water are maturing but have yet to deal
quired by existing statutes; effectively with such problems as air toxics,
● most effective when it applies to all haz- nonpoint sources of pollutants (e. g., pesticide
ardous wastes and pollutants, whether they use), and marine wastes.9 The RCRA hazard-
are regulated or not, otherwise opportuni- ous waste management program is in a particu-
ties arise to shift waste among environ- larly problematic state of flux. Congressional
mental media (air, water, and land) or out actions in 1984 directed EPA to move the haz-
of the regulatory system; ardous waste management system away from
● best addressed by policies aimed at assis- land disposal. However, Congress did not give
tance, persuasion, and institutional com- EPA specific instructions to move as forcefully
mitment since—as both OTA and EPA toward waste reduction.
agree—it is not amenable to traditional reg-
ulatory or prescriptive approaches; and Industry is investing in waste management
● a bridge between environmental and indus- techniques (particularly incineration) which are
trial competitiveness issues and goals. familiar and which are marketed aggressively
by vendors. Treatment equipment often re-
Timing of Waste Reduction v. Waste Treatment quires large amounts of waste to operate effi-
ciently, and capital investments in treatment
The OTA report and—to a lesser extent—the facilities can take many years to amortize.
EPA report draw attention to the importance Present public policy, therefore, is driving large
for policy makers to unambiguously define investments in waste management facilities that
waste reduction and its primacy over other op- can preclude, limit, or delay waste reduction.
tions that manage and control hazardous wastes
and pollutants, There is a choice to be made; This incremental strategy of first addressing
whether to devote essentially all the govern- waste management needs in order to satisfy reg-
ment’s environmental resources to fix inher- ulatory land disposal deadlines appears reason-
ent problems in the traditional pollution con- able at first. However, it could severely and per-
trol system or to use some of those resources manently limit waste reduction and the more
to pay significant attention to waste reduction. certain benefits it offers. Moreover, as impor-
Congress, EPA, and industry worry a lot about tant as regulatory deadlines that limit the use
a potential shortfall of waste management ca- of land disposal are, they are less important in
the long term than encouraging waste reduc-
pacity because of the current shift away from
land disposal practices under RCRA. As the tion. Enough flexibility could be introduced into
EPA and OTA reports recognize, waste reduc-
%ee, for instance, U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assess-
tion could lower waste management needs in ment, Wastes in Marine Environments, OTA-O-334 (Washing-
the near term, if it is given a high priority by ton, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, April 1987).

the regulatory system to accommodate and en- States was spending slightly more than the Jap-
courage more waste reduction without com- anese manufacturing industries.
promising the environmental benefits of reduc-
In 1980, total industrial investments in pol-
ing the use of land disposal.
lution control as a percent of gross industrial
Siting and permitting difficulties, however, domestic product were nearly four times
pose great barriers and long delays to new greater for the United States than for Japan or
waste treatment facilities. Shortages in waste France and nearly three times greater than for
treatment capacity—even with increased in- West Germany.
vestment in treatment facilities—might result.
What data are available on relative reductions
This situation could lead to pressures from
in environmental pollution indicate that our in-
within industry to restore greater use of land
dustrialized competitors have done as good or
disposal or to engage in actions that might sac-
better than the United States.10 In terms of eco-
rifice environmental protection in order to
nomic efficiency, environmental protection in
build new waste management facilities. Seri-
the United States appears more costly than in
ous Federal assistance for waste reduction
other industrialized nations. The reason seems
could help to head off this potential problem.
to be not merely greater government regulation
but less flexible environmental regulations in
Waste Reduction and Competitiveness the United States that block effective and more
Waste reduction is more than an environ- economical and technologically advanced solu-
mental issue; it is a way to improve industrial tions. (Regulatory flexibility to encourage waste
competitiveness. More environmental regula- reduction is discussed later in this special re-
tions and more effective enforcement raise port.) The environmental competitive disadvan-
environmental costs and increase liabilities tage of the United States relative to newly in-
(from Superfund, civil and criminal prosecu- dustrializing nations, such as South Korea and
tions, lack of adequate insurance, and limits Brazil, is even greater because such countries
on real estate transactions). From 1985 to 1986 have fewer environmental requirements.
there was a 20-percent increase in the number
Another OECD report on the connection be-
of pages of Federal environmental regulations
tween technological innovation and environ-
to a total of 8,500 pages. The increase was the
mental protection is quite significant .11 OECD
largest annual increase in history. These in-
concluded that waste reduction is the only envi-
creased burdens, added to other conditions
ronmental protection tactic that directly bene-
(e.g., higher wage rates), can contribute to per-
fits industry in the broader context of indus-
manent plant closings and relocation of plants
trial efficiency and technological change but
to foreign countries. If it occurs early enough,
that so far none of the industrialized nations
waste reduction can help modernize industry
had adopted it in a big way. The report also
and provide environmental protection while re-
highlights the results of a French study on waste
ducing these burdens and thus increase cor-
reduction that revealed benefits not initially ex-
porate net income.
pected, such as, energy savings (in 51 percent
Data from the Organization for Economic Co- of the 200 cases examined), savings in raw ma-
operation and Development (OECD) on indus- terials (47 percent), and improved working con-
trial environmental spending by the United ditions (40 percent). At the present time, most
States and its competitors seem to indicate a industrial managers focus only on savings asso-
competitive disadvantage for the United States. ciated with waste management, pollution con-
Japanese manufacturing industries’ capital trol, and regulatory compliance costs and lia-
spending in 1974 on pollution control was 100
percent more than that of American manufac- loor~anization for Economic Cooperation and Development,
turing industries. By 1977 these environmental OECD Environmental Data–Compendium 1985 (Paris: OECD,
June 1985).
investments were the same in Japan and the llorganization for Economic Cooperation and Development,
United States, but in 1978 and 1979 the United Environmental Policy and Technical Change(Paris: OECD, 1985).

bilities. From a public policy perspective, the EPA examined the incentives for and disin-
conclusion of the OECD report concerning the centives to waste reduction from the current
role of government is important, The report waste regulatory and management system. EPA
said: said that regulatory conditions are strong driv-
ing forces for waste reduction. But it did not
[waste reduction] may turn out to become
increasingly an essential part of environ- recognize their indirect character, their role as
mental protection. Public authorities have an obstacles, and that they can easily lead indus-
important role to play in the management of try to responses other than waste reduction,
this evolution for the best environmental pro- such as changing waste management technol-
tection.12 ogy, taking advantage of opportunities within
the regulatory system to avoid or delay com-
It is difficult for Congress to discuss the link pliance, or, in extreme cases, closing plants.
between waste reduction and industrial com-
petitiveness because the two are provinces of EPA’s view of past waste reduction seems
different committees and subcommittees. to have affected its policy analysis. OTA be-
Moreover, environmental protection objectives lieves that EPA has overestimated the amount
have often been seen as counter to economic of waste reduction that has occurred in the past
interests and a dragon society. However, a Fed- and thus underestimates the need for a major
eral program that helps industry to reduce its Federal effort to assist industrial waste reduc-
environmental costs and liabilities through tion. New data on RCRA waste that was not
waste reduction might avert some decline in available for use in the EPA or OTA reports
the industrial sector. Marginal plants may be show a higher level of annual generation; from
in particular need. They already have trouble the 250 million metric tons reported by vari-
dealing with production problems and may not ous studies in the early 1980s to 569 million
have the technical or economic ability to evalu- metric tons. *a This does not necessarily mean
ate and implement waste reduction options. As that waste generation has increased, but by bas-
a means of improving industrial competitive- ing its findings on the lower figures, EPA could
ness and helping to renovate the American pro- have underestimated the potential targets for
duction system, waste reduction offers a low- waste reduction. Some State data given later
cost legislative option that does not sacrifice support OTA’s less optimistic interpretation of
environmental protection. past waste reduction.
The EPA report concludes that large compa-
Policy Options nies can and will reduce waste but that smaller
While the OTA report provides Congress with firms will not because of lack of information,
three different, detailed broad strategies for a technical knowledge, and access to capital. If
Federal waste reduction program, the EPA re- this were the case, large companies should be
port outlines two parallel efforts, one near term able to show evidence of comprehensive waste
and one long term, for waste minimization. reduction. But, by and large they cannot. Firm
size, variations in corporate structure and cul-
The OTA policy analysis examined how to ture, and the variable nature of production—
shift the emphasis in environmental protection inputs, processes, and products—affect what
toward waste reduction without adding expen- companies can do to cut waste generation. The
sive new programs and how to address the ob- OTA report shows that various obstacles exist
stacles to waste reduction within government
and—just as importantly-within industry. Pub-
lic policy must address both sets of obstacles ISU.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “1986 National
Screening Survey of Hazardous Waste Treatment, Storage, Dis-
to be effective in achieving national environ- posal, and Recycling Facilities: Summary of Results for TSDR
mental protection goals. Facilities Active in 1985,” prepared for the Office of Policy, Plan-
ning, and Information (Office of Solid Waste) by the Center for
Economics Research by Research Triangle Institute, Research
IZIbid., p. 95 Triangle Park, NC, December 1986.

for all sizes of companies and that Federal waste shifting resources from less effective strategies
reduction efforts can be designed to assist all for environmental protection. Two percent of
of American industry. Individual facilities of EPA’s operating budget would equal $3o mil-
large companies often face the same problems lion in fiscal year 1988—easily the cost of one
as small businesses when it comes to carrying Superfund cleanup. This level is low enough
out waste reduction. not to threaten or diminish the effectiveness
of ongoing pollution control regulatory pro-
The EPA report says that aggressive action
grams. However, this amount, which is almost
and institutional advocacy are necessary to pro-
100 times that requested by EPA for waste mini-
mote further waste minimization but provides
mization, would allow the creation of an effec-
no insight as to how EPA will provide either.
tive grants program to be implemented at the
The agency’s fiscal year 1988 budget request
State level. From a cost-benefit perspective en-
of $398,000 for waste minimization and its long-
couraging and assisting waste reduction can
standing low priority for waste reduction sug-
pay in improved environmental protection, in-
gest that it is not prepared to be that advocate
creased tax revenues, reduced or slower growth
without congressional direction.
in governmental spending on regulatory pro-
In the OTA report three broad policy ap- grams, and avoided future Superfund cleanup
proaches, each with many specific congres- costs. Information dissemination on alternative
sional actions, are described. If the Federal pub- technologies for waste reduction and direct
lic policy goal is rapid and comprehensive technical assistance to industries will increase
hazardous waste reduction, then Policy Option regulatory compliance, reduce waste genera-
III—to establish a new, highly visible waste re- tion, and increase industrial efficiency.
duction program–would be the most likely to
Another point to consider is that, with no ma-
attain that goal without harm to American in-
jor Federal commitment to waste reduction,
dustry. That approach would assist industry
EPA could come under pressure to take short-
with voluntary waste reduction and would de-
cuts in siting, permitting, and delisting RCRA
velop a planning and reporting system to track
hazardous wastes to match waste generation
industrial progress. It would acknowledge the
with available waste management capacity. If
primacy of waste reduction over pollution con-
this happened, public confidence in govern-
trol and would attempt to raise the use of waste
ment environmental programs—already
reduction to a parity with pollution control.
shaken—could worsen.
While this kind of a Federal program would
firmly establish national policy, provide leader- Finally, although congressional action on
ship, and give institutional priority and com- waste reduction would be a major change in
mitment to waste reduction, the States would environmental policy, it is also a logical next
be called on to do most of the work. In order step in the development of a comprehensive
of importance, major activities supported by environmental protection-waste management
Federal grants would be in-plant technical assis- system. Governor James J. Blanchard of Mich-
tance, information and technology transfer, igan recently described the historical nexus of
education and training, and generic R&D. 14 waste reduction:
As discussed later, a new Federal program It is time for a revolution in our thinking
might be funded by reallocating a small per- about protecting the environment from pollu-
cent of EPA’s operating budget specifically for tion . , , The successful state and federal envi-
waste reduction. This approach is consistent ronmental legislation of the 1960s and 1970s
with waste reduction’s priority which justifies attacked conventional pollutants by regulat-
ing their release into the environment. This
liThe OTA study concluded that it was not feasible to give forced the development of new pollution con-
money to companies for waste reduction, as waste reduction trol technologies, but still permitted some dis-
is linked to so many industrial activities with broader objectives charge of materials . . . To meet the emerging
than waste reduction that government assistance could skyrocket. challenge of toxic pollutants, we must realize

that it is far more effective and cheaper to pre- businesses to reduce toxic pollutants, focus-
vent them from ever entering the environment ing initially on hazardous waste reduc-
than it is to clean up our mistakes . . . Our busi- tion , . . We will press for federal action set-
ness economy, too, will benefit from the re- ting national goals for pollution reduction and
duced material costs, slashed disposal fees, prompting this country to advocate pollution
and increased efficiency that result from inno- reduction as an international priority .15
vative waste reduction technologies . . . I will
charge this [Waste Reduction Program] with
designing programs for providing technical IsGovernor James J. Blanc hard, The Michigan Strategy: Re-
and financial assistance and information to port to the People of Michigan and the Legislature, 1987, pp. 39-43.

An examination of the OTA and EPA reports ately reduce its waste generation. In some
shows that there are areas of agreement and cases, R&D may first be necessary in order for
disagreement on waste reduction. Both OTA economic benefits to be attained at specific
and EPA agree on a number of technical issues plants. Some industries have less potential for
and that traditional mandatory regulations to waste reduction than others, either because of
force waste reduction are not now appropri- the age or type of their production processes,
ate. OTA and EPA do not agree on terms and because of past reduction efforts, or because
definitions (and thus, the focus of potential Fed- of variable capacity to innovate related to cor-
eral efforts), on the hazardous wastes that porate styles, cultures, and strategies. Gener-
should be considered for reduction, or on how ally, EPA and OTA conclude that there are a
waste reduction is affected by various incen- number of problems, disincentives, and obsta-
tives and obstacles. OTA’s analysis of EPA’s cles concerning institutions, organizational
report relies principally on its summary vol- characteristics, information, and human atti-
ume. However, there are discrepancies be- tudes and behavior that limit the use of techni-
tween the summary and subsequent volumes cally feasible waste reduction options.
of the EPA report. EPA did not use some re-
Within the agreements between the EPA and
sults of its own analyses that are in more agree-
OTA reports, however, there is a point of dis-
ment with the findings of OTA and others than
agreement that can have important policy im-
EPA’s highlighted findings and conclusions
plications. Years of unreliable waste genera-
would indicate. Box D gives several examples
tion data makes accurate accounting for waste
of such unused EPA results.
reduction difficult, if not impossible, with cur-
rent information collection systems. This is im-
Areas of Agreement portant for policy development; the greater the
potential for future waste reduction the greater
is the justification for a major Federal initia-
Despite the different waste universes stud- tive aimed at helping industry reduce waste
ied by EPA and OTA (as discussed later), both generation as soon as possible.
reports attest to the availability of technology EPA and OTA answered the question of how
to reduce waste generation, the basic economic much waste reduction has taken place in differ-
benefits of waste reduction, and the ability of ent ways. OTA discussed waste reduction ex-
industry (and government) to reduce waste gen-
tensively with industry people and concluded
eration. Both reports, moreover, give consid- that while some waste reduction has occurred
erable attention to the lack of substantive in- and more is occurring today, the bulk of feasi-
formation on waste generation and reduction: ble waste reduction (where waste is defined
on what has occurred, is now occurring, or may
very broadly) lies ahead. OTA has not even tried
occur in the future. The correct way to meas- to make exact calculations of past or future
ure waste reduction, according to EPA and waste reduction, because the data are insuffi-
OTA, is to put changes in waste generation on cient for that purpose. EPA calculated num-
a product output basis so that other contribu- bers that show relatively high reduction in the
tions to changing waste generation levels (e.g.,
past with a methodology that probably over-
production rates) are eliminated. But only a few
estimates waste reduction. EPA’s calculations
companies can supply data of this nature, and were based necessarily on critical subjective
government has not yet clearly stated that there
judgments, rather than actual data, which do
is a correct way to measure waste reduction not exist. Other factors (some of which lead to
that everyone ought to use. systematically overestimating the waste reduc-
Optimism about future potential does not tion that has occurred) cast great uncertainty
mean that every waste generator can immedi- on the EPA conclusion that most waste reduc-


Box D.—Unused Results in EPA’s Report Appendices Agree With OTA’s Findings
● Policy should address obstacles to waste reduction rather than rely on the marketplace to pro-
vide indirect incentives
“Many of the hazardous waste generators subject to these pressures face obstacles to implementing
waste minimizing processes or practices, because they lack awareness of the technical alternatives
available, have inadequate capital to make the necessary investments, lack engineering expertise
to redesign processes, or fail to understand the importance of considering compliance or disposal
costs in time/cash flow calculations. ” [p. A-92]
● Current EPA efforts are limited; better organization and a comprehensive grants program are
needed to support State programs
“EPA’s current technical assistance effort is restricted, Few States receive direct support and the
support that is available is limited. Research programs are selected and funded without any system-
atic determination as to whether their research might duplicate efforts of other States. ” [p. A-108]
● All sizes of firms face obstacles to waste reduction
“Direct financial assistance would presumably focus on small and medium-sized companies, not
the largest generators, since the large firms tend to have greatest access to information and capital
to support waste minimization programs. A sustained and well-publicized program would, how-
ever, help change the general climate within which firms make waste management decisions, ex-
ploiting peer pressure and creating a milieu in which firms can demonstrate technological leader-
ship and innovation in a field where public anxieties are great.” [p, A-98]
● Waste reduction is a multimedia environmental protection strategy
“[Technical assistance programs] could encourage thinking about environmental problems on a
cross media basis, Waste audits and technical assistance provided to companies generally focus
on the entire pollution generation profile of a company—not just RCRA wastes. ” [p. A-99]
● Substantial unused waste reduction opportunities still exist
“It will be difficult to predict or to measure the impact of technical programs on waste generation
rates, but the Agency believes it is potentially substantial . . . Technical assistance could potentially
have a significant beneficial effect on the toxicity of wastes produced by large numbers of firms, ”
[P. A-98]

tion that can happen has happened. Those fac- mate and there was little incentive for firms
tors include: to look beyond waste disposal to waste re-
1. extrapolation from approximately 20 pro- duction or to concentrate process modifi-
duction processes to the literally hundreds cation work on waste reduction rather than
of thousands of processes in all of U.S. in- on product improvement; and
dustry; 4. even today a waste stream can be counted
2, the picture of U.S. industry used in the esti- as totally reduced when it moves from one
mate was static;* regulatory system to another (e.g., instead
3. the assumption of maximum use of best of going to a RCRA facility it goes to a pub-
waste reduction technology is unrealistic lic wastewater treatment plant) or when
because waste disposal costs were very low it is only partially recycled.
during most of the years used for the esti- The EPA report on waste minimization esti-
mates that an additional 15 to 30 percent re-
*During the years covered by the estimate, new processes and duction in waste generation is possible in the
new products were introduced in great number, some of which
must have caused more waste to be generated than the proc-
next 25 years, over the 60 percent estimated
esses and products they replaced. This phenomenon was not for the past, In the OTA report, available com-
factored into the estimates. pany data on hazardous waste reduction was

used to support an average 10 percent year-to- nologies into only 1 to 3 percent of their plants
year level of waste reduction for the next 5 years (major exceptions were gas and electric plants
as a feasible goal, although individual compa- at 72.7 percent and wood at 36 percent). In Den-
nies and plants might accomplish less or more. mark, which is very progressive in the environ-
In other words, the EPA report concludes that mental area, about one-third of firms adopted
most waste reduction has already occurred; the new production processes with environmental
OTA report, on the other hand, supported a benefits between 1975 and 1980.
greater potential for waste reduction in the
near-term future. Still other recent information is consistent
with OTA’s conclusion that much more reduc-
An optimistic view of future waste reduction tion in waste generation (broadly defined) is
potential is supported by the following. First, possible. New Jersey has perhaps the best State
the acknowledged leader in waste reduction, data on waste generation, and new data indi-
3M, has reduced its hazardous waste genera- cate an increase in waste generation of 50 per-
tion by about 50 percent over the past 10 years cent over the past 3 years (when the effect of
and has said that it hopes to reduce by about a major plant having closed down some opera-
another 30 percent over the next 5 years. It tions is taken into account). Increases in pro-
seems implausible to suggest, as EPA’s report duction were not likely to have been the cause,
does, that all of American industry has been because of a slow economy, but better infor-
able to achieve what this large research-oriented mation reporting could account for it.
company has done. Companies, such as 3M and
Dow Chemical, that have given a lot of atten- New York officials have reported that out of
tion to waste reduction publicize the results of some 2,OOO biennial waste generator reports
submitted in 1986 only 50 provided any infor-
their efforts. These companies are few in num-
mation on waste minimization required by Con-
ber, suggesting that few have equaled 3M’s per-
gress in the 1984 amendments to RCRA. A rea-
formance, much less have reached EPA’s 60
sonable interpretation of these numbers is that
percent level.
most generators did not reduce waste genera-
Second, the OTA report’s survey of people tion, since they could benefit from public ac-
in 99 companies showed that about 50 percent knowledgment of such efforts. The report for-
believed technology available to them in 1985 mat was not an obstacle because they could
could reduce their waste generation (all, not report their efforts in any narrative form they
just RCRA wastes) by more than 25 percent. chose. According to Illinois officials, annual
This indicates that much more waste genera- reports indicate that 50 percent of large quan-
tion could be reduced over a longer period with tity generators and an even greater fraction of
more extensive information dissemination, small quantity generators have made no seri-
technology transfer, and government support. ous progress in waste reduction.
Third, a recent OECD report concludes that In California, the Metropolitan Water District
penetration of clean technologies (processes of Southern California and the Environmental
that reduce the generation of wastes) into pro- Defense Fund have embarked on an innovative
duction has been small in the United States and program (supported by $300,000 from each for
elsewhere. 16 It found that 80 percent of U.S. the initial program) to assist industry to reduce
spending on air and water pollution from 1973 the generation of chlorinated solvents by up to
to 1980 was on end-of-pipe pollution control 75 percent. This high goal indicates this indus-
measures. More detailed data from France, try has not pursued much waste reduction in
where the national government has promoted the past.
waste reduction, show that major waste gen-
Lastly, if EPA was correct about so much past
erating industries have introduced clean tech-
waste reduction, then there should have been
l~organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, some observable effects on aggregate waste gen-
l’nvironmental Policy and Technical Change, op. cit. eration. Unfortunately data for RCRA waste

have been undergoing change and remain sus- amounts generated over time for 301 plants
pect. Nevertheless, it is important to consider have been correlated with changes in the in-
aggregate waste generation data because from dustry production index published by the Fed-
a waste reduction perspective all generated eral Reserve Board. However, this approach
wastes establish the potential for waste reduc- does not necessarily provide an accurate meas-
tion. There is very little data from EPA’s air ure of waste reduction. First, the problem is
and water regulatory programs on how much that the production index is for the entire chem-
waste is generated. In the initial years of the icals industry. This is not the same as relating
RCRA program, EPA said that about 40 mil- the changes in waste generation, on a one-to-
lion metric tons of hazardous waste were gen- one basis, to the actual production changes
erated annually. Then in the early 1980s, be- from those plants. There is considerable diver-
ginning with OTA, the Congressional Budget sity in the chemicals industry for different in-
Office and an EPA contractor study raised the dustry segments (e.g., organic, inorganic, spe-
estimated level to some 250 million metric tons cialty) and for different companies within those
annually. However, a survey of 1984 practices segments. Second, the procedure hides changes
taken by the Chemical Manufacturers Associa- other than production levels that can affect
tion (C MA) of its members suggested that total waste generation data.
RCRA waste generation for the Nation might
In conclusion, OTA finds pent-up opportuni-
be as high as 1 billion tons annually .17
ties throughout industry for waste reduction;
Now, a new EPA contractor survey has, for they await the removal of obstacles, the provi-
the first time, counted RCRA waste that is ex- sion of information and technical means, and
empt from being managed in RCRA regulated clear benefits to be provided by general regula-
facilities. All RCRA wastes, regardless of how tory and economic conditions. A slow, incre-
they are managed, define targets for waste re- mental approach to waste reduction unneces-
duction. Preliminary data reported in Decem- sarily prolongs avoidable environmental costs
ber 1986 show that a total of 569 million met- in industry and delays environmental benefits
ric tons of RCRA wastes were generated in to the Nation.
1985. While this survey covered more RCRA
wastes (but only currently regulated RCRA Use of Regulations
wastes) than those in the past, it did not account
Both reports recognize that a traditional reg-
for nonRCRA wastes that are handled exclu-
ulatory approach to, in some way, prescribe in-
sively by nonRCRA facilities (e. g, a wastewa-
dustrial waste reduction is not now practical
ter treatment plant not requiring a RCRA per-
or feasible. Both reports also note the appar-
mit). It should be noted that numbers for total
ent effectiveness of State and foreign govern-
amounts of waste generation are influenced by ment waste reduction programs that have not
several factors, such as plant closings, chang-
been based on a regulatory approach. However
ing production levels, or regulatory delistings,
that effectiveness is limited in scope, especially
that can mask or distort changes due to waste
in the context of affecting national waste gen-
eration and management. That is, the nonregu-
Data on the generation of hazardous waste latory approach to waste reduction has been
(only RCRA wastes) by the chemical industry found effective when used, but has not yet re-
have been presented to show that waste re- ceived broad and serious public and private
duction is occurring. 17 The reductions in the support anywhere.
17chemica] Manufacturers Association, “Resu]ts of the 1984 Both reports hold up the prospect of regulations
CMA Hazardous Waste Survey,” January 1986. The sample of in the future if better information demonstrates
companies represented one-half of the chemical industry and
the chemical industry generates about half of the total for the need and justifies the high implementation
Nation. The CMA total of about 247 million tons can, therefore, costs. This could happen if the nonregulatory
be roughly extrapolated to about 1 billion tons nationally.
Iechemical Manufacturers Association, ‘‘ 1985 C MA Hazard- approach is never fully supported or if it is and
ous Waste Survey, ” April 1987. is found to be ineffective. EPA plans to con-

72-675 0 - 87 - 3 QL: 3

tinue to examine mandatory controls in order does not clearly identify and single out waste
to reach a final decision in 1990. However, it reduction and define it unambiguously is likely
does not appear that there is any information to lead to programs that underemphasize and
now being collected at the Federal level on in- undermine waste reduction relative to pollu-
dustrial practices that could justify, much less tion control.
be the basis for, a major new regulatory pro-
Waste minimization is the term used in the
gram. By carefully designing new information
EPA report because the report was mandated
collection within existing regulatory programs,
under the waste minimization section in the
it might take 5 to 10 years to get reliable sys-
1984 RCRA Amendments. In the statute a clear
tematic data on waste reduction nationwide.
distinction is repeatedly made between waste
It is not so much that it could not be done faster
reduction, the uncontested option of choice,
but that organizational and administrative fac-
and better waste management “of wastes never-
tors associated with using existing regulatory
theless generated” as an alternative to land dis-
programs would slow down the process. As dis-
posal. EPA’s report divides waste minimization
cussed later, a separate, new waste reduction
into three categories: source reduction, recy-
office in EPA could perform the job more effi-
cling, and waste treatment. Source reduction,
if it is equivalent to OTA’s waste reduction, is
consistent with the first part of the national pol-
Areas of Disagreement icy statement (see box C), while recycling and
The differences between OTA and EPA re- treatment processes manage waste that is gen-
garding the use and definition of terms and erated. The EPA report says that “Source re-
whether waste reduction is best applied within duction measures can include some types of
a multimedia context are outlined in tables 1 treatment processes . . . “ 19 The inclusion of
and 2. treatment is difficult to interpret. For example,
if EPA considers in-plant incineration of waste
Operative Term and Definition as source reduction, then there is even greater
disagreement between OTA’s and EPA’s defi-
There is no standard term for actions that re- nition. Thus, putting the term waste minimi-
duce the generation of waste and none of the zation aside, EPA’s definition of source reduc-
terms in use cover a standard set of similarly tion alone could encourage waste treatment by
defined activities. The term waste reduction, industry instead of waste reduction.
however, has roots in government activities and
policy statements going back many years and However, for purposes of the waste minimi-
has always referred to cutting down the gener- zation report to Congress, only source reduc-
ation of waste at its source. Therefore, it is con- tion and recycling are included because:
sistent with the broad concept of pollution pre- . . . this report focuses on source reduction
vention as distinct from pollution control which and recycling, the two aspects of waste mini-
deals with wastes and pollutants after they are mization where basic options still remain
generated and leave a production process. open. 2o
OTA has placed utmost importance on this Basic options here apparently refer to policy
distinction because the historical record indi- options since Congress has already directed
cates clearly that there is a tendency in gov- EPA to consider treatment technology capac-
ernment and industry to opt for post-generation ity but not waste reduction or recycling capa-
pollution control solutions instead of preven- bility when implementing the RCRA land dis-
tion. If one accepts the long-standing proposi- posal bans. Later the report states:
tion that waste reduction is without doubt the
option of choice, it is necessary to unambigu- IQU, S. Environmental Protection Agency, Report to Congress:
ously distinguish it from pollution control and Minimization of Hazardous Waste, op. cit., p. ii.
waste management options. Public policy that ZOIbid,, p. iv.

Table 1 .—Definitions Used in the Reports

EPA (for the report) SPA (Interpreting HSWA) OTA

waste minimization:
"Waste minimization means the reduction,
to the extent feasible, of hazardous waste
that is generated orsubsequently treated,
stored, or disposed of. It includes any
reduction or recycling activity un-
dertaken by a generator that results in
either: 1) the reduction of total volume or
quantity of hazardous waste; or 2) the reduction
of toxicity of hazardous Waste,
or both, so long as such reduction is con-
sistent with the goal of minimizing
present and future threats to human
health and the environment.”[p. 11 and p.
“This report focuses on source reduction
and recycling, the two aspects of waste
Mktmizatlon where b8eio optiona W *
mdn open.” [p. Ivl
WVeete minimization, aa defined In thie
report, Irmludaa the flrat four oaWgodee
Of thi$ hieramhy . . .“ ~ font OatqOttOO
rwrrad to above am Waete ra@OnWl,
w*e eewMOO and oowentratlon,
waate exohango, wd eneqy/mataM
~.1 [P. al
‘The two ma@ categortea of waete mlnirnl-
zatfon activlttea ooneMewM In thle report
are aourca rMUIWon and moyolhlg.” fp.
“Any aottvtty that raduoa or ethmatee the
~~no:~ hamiouo waeta within a
%louroe IwM@on refera to the mduobon or
etimfnatlon of waate generation at the
eoume, ueuafly within a pmwae. TMe 18
the type of waete mtnlm@8tion that moat
- -~ to the oono@?t of
Waate av4anoe. aoume rwtuotfon m
Uma Oan Inolude $ome typea of Wstmsnt
%%&iOne o r
~~ts m -took PUX, Vwtoue
~n9 m mnagammt pmotioee,
Inomaaea In the emienoy of memnery,
and @ven faoydng wlthln a pmoaee. Ae
U* here, eouroe reduotlon Impfbe my
aotion that duoae tha anount of waete
axittng from a pmoaee.” [p. 8. aho p. H
but eantenoe @
W** ~“
Not defined, but ueed kttarmtttently
throughout the report. tJao V81b0 and
doee not naoeaeMy urea with WA%

“A matertd 1$ ‘myofaf’ if It to Ueed, ?weed?

0? reWmed (40 cm Zel.f {b) ~“ @. q
‘WWoM?9 fefefa to tha Uee or rewe of ●
waete aa an effeotlw eubetttut* fur ●
oommamid produot, or ae afI hl#MH#M
w faedatook In * lndueMt piWOsae. ft
ahlo refera to the motamdon of Uaefd
oonatltuent faottone wfthin a waete
material or removal of Contamhwlts ftom
a wasto to dtow it to be muaad. Ae uaat$
*ml Wb u- - or
reoWmtion %? a waete after It fa ganefet.
ed by a pmioulm pmcaee. It, too, m in.
Volvo Vartoua typeB of treatmaot to
fwMitata the raoyoli@g prWeee.” (p, ?;
abo p. II but Without the f108t WMencq
SOURCES: Complied by OTA, 1987. For columns 1 and 2, U.S Environmental Protection Agency, Reporf to Corrgress: Minirnizat/on of Hazardous
Waste, EPA/530 +3 WJ36-033 (Washington, DC: EPA, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, October 1986), pages as noted
For column 3, U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, Serious Reduction of Hazardous Waste, OTA.ITE.317 (Washington,
DC U S. Government Printing Off Ice, September 1986), pages as noted,

Table 2.–Wastes Covered by Reports and HSWA

EPA OTA HSWA on waste minimization

Hazardous Waste:
EPA does not explicitly say which wastes “All nonproduct hazardous outputs from an The phrase used in HSWA was “hazardous
are covered by its use of the term industrial operation into all environmental wastes. ” The assumption can be made,
“hazardous wastes.” An assumption can media, even though they may be within therefore, that the waste minimization
be made that since the report deals wi- permitted or licensed limits. This is much regulations required by HSWA were in-
thin the context of RCRA and was man- broader than the legal definition of tended to cover only those solid wastes
dated under RCRA that EPA considers hazardous solid waste in the Resource regulated as hazardous wastes under
waste minimization to cover only those Conservation and Recovery Act, its RCRA.
solid wastes regulated as hazardous amendments, and subsequent regulations. Some ambiguit exists, however, due to the
wastes under R6RA. Hazardous refers to harm to human health legislative history. Senate Report No.
or the environment and is broader than 98-284 on waste minimization provisions
the term ‘toxicity.’ For example, wastes in S. 757, voiced concerns about “. pol-
that are hazardous because of their corro- Iutants contained in effluents, emissions,
sive, flammability, explosiveness, or infec- wastes or other pollution streams. ”
tiousness are not normally considered
toxic. ” [p. 31]
Differing views of a multimedia approach:
Waste minimization is RCRA:
Ail incentives/disincentives (barriers) are
framed within the RCRA context. The one
exception is: “Commercial recycling facili-
ties that wish to increase their operations
might be reluctant to do so if the expan-
sion were to require a revision of their
NPDES water pollution permit to authorize
a change in the composition of their dis-
charges or allow for larger flows.” [p. 29]
Almost all information/data reviewed for
report and assessment of needs for future
concerns RCRA hazardous waste genera-
tion and management.
Waste minimization is multimedia: Waste reduction is multimedia:
EPA lists protecting human health and the “Reduction-applied to a broad universe of
environment as a key role for waste emissions, discharges, and wastes—is
minimization because “. . none of EPA’s the best means of achieving pollution
environmental control programs can fully prevention.” [p. 7]
eliminate all the risks that they attempt to “OTA has concluded that a comprehensive
control.” [p. 9] multimedia (air, water, land) definition for
“To achieve its purpose, waste minimization hazardous waste is necessary . . . 1) to
like other pollution control measures, avoid creating opportunities for shifting
must look comprehensively across all en- waste from one environmental medium to
vironmental media; reductions in another possibly unregulated or less regu-
hazardous waste must not be made at the Iated medium . . . and 2) to include wastes
expense of increases in air or water pollu- that are not currently regulated, such as
tion . . . Waste minimization programs most toxic air emissions. If the term
must therefore be carefully designed to hazardous waste is defined or applied nar-
avoid cross-media transfers and to protect rowly, waste reduction measures can be
human health and the environment in a ineffective. ” [p. 11]
comphrensive sense. The need to design
a waste minimization program that ad-
dresses both of these goals provides a
framework for integrating the objectives
of all environmental programs.” [p. 10]
“EPA believes that waste minimization must
be implemented as a general policy
throughout the hazardous waste manage-
ment system and, ultimately, more broad-
ly throughout all of EPA’s pollution
control programs.” [p. 121]
SOURCES: Complied by OTA, 1987. For column 1, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Ffeporf to Corrgress: ~lrrlmlzatiofl of lkuar~ous VVaste, EPN530-SW-S8-033
(Washington, DC: EPA, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, October 19S8), pages as noted. For column 2, U.S. Congress, Office of Technology
Assessment, Serious Reduction of Hazardous Waste, OTA-ITE-317 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, September 1988), pages as noted.

Waste minimization, as defined in this re- The term waste reduction, which is not de-
port, includes the first four categories of this fined by the EPA report, is widely and unevenly
hierarchy . . . Z’ used in that report. At various times it appears
The four categories referred to are those in to be equivalent to: 1) EPA’s source reduction
EPA’s 1976 hierarchy statement and include or OTA’s waste reduction, or 2) waste minimi-
waste reduction, separation and concentration, zation, sometimes with and sometimes with-
waste exchange, and energy/materials recov- out treatment. For example:
ery but exclude waste treatment and land Though some of these treatments, such as
disposal. incineration, are very effective at solvent
The EPA report can give the impression that
waste reduction, the costs have been prohibi-
waste treatment is not part of waste minimiza-
tion. But there is a clear statement in the re- In this EPA statement, waste treatment is
port by EPA that waste minimization includes clearly considered part of waste reduction, but
waste treatment: the use of the term waste reduction is only sen-
sible in this context if it is equivalent to waste
That [HSWA] definition includes the con-
cept of waste treatment, which encompasses
such technologies as incineration, chemical The aforementioned letter to the EPA Science
detoxification, biological treatments, and Advisory Board says that waste reduction is
others. 22 “defined generally as waste elimination
Moreover, subsequent to the EPA report, a through in-process changes. ”
letter on April 24,1987, from a senior EPA offi- To recap, EPA has two definitions for waste
cial to the EPA Science Advisory Board says minimization and has not defined but uses the
that waste minimization is “generally defined term waste reduction in a variety of ways. This
as any reduction of wastes going to disposal confusing pattern of language creates consid-
whether through source reduction, through on- erable uncertainty for Congress and industry
site or off-site recycling or even through treat- about EPA’s future policies or programs. EPA
ment of wastes to reduce volume, mass or tox- initiatives to expand waste minimization may
icity.” [emphasis added] not necessarily focus on what OTA calls waste
By defining waste minimization in two ways, reduction if waste minimization includes any
confusion results: 1) Does every waste minimi- type of recycling and waste treatment. More-
zation statement in the report exclude waste over, when EPA says:
treatment? and 2) Does any waste minimiza- . . . mandatory standards of performance and
tion activity by EPA and its commitments to required management practices are not feasi-
future activities, outside of the boundaries of ble or desirable at this time. 25
the report, exclude waste treatment? This fun-
damental uncertainty is highlighted by the EPA does this refer to all three components of waste
report’s statement of intent to issue “informal minimization? Clearly, waste treatment is al-
guidance to generators concerning what con- ready regulated, Recycling of generated waste
stitutes waste minimization under the report- that is not a part of an industrial process is and
ing and certification requirements of RCRA. ” 23 should be regulated. The OTA report’s state-
The importance and consequences of defining ment on the infeasibility of traditional
waste minimization are critical, and EPA command-and-control regulations clearly refers
should quickly and definitively tell industry only to waste reduction.
what the government means (see box E). In summary, OTA’s waste reduction includes
a host of actions taken by waste generators
Z’Ibid., p. 6.
ZZIbid., p. ii. ZqIbid., p, 17.
2JIbid,, p. 129. ZsIbid., unnumbered first summary page.

Box E.—Recent Examples of Obstacles in the Private Sector to Waste Reduction

Current, traditional attitudes in industry keep attention and resources away from waste reduc-
tion even when the primacy of waste reduction is explicitly recognized.
A major industrial trade association says”. . . while the semiconductor industry recognizes waste
reduction at the source (i.e., source reduction) to be the ultimate goal, current practice still empha-
sizes end-of-pipe management of hazardous waste. ” Despite this recognition, a definition of waste
minimization that includes waste treatment is used “since it is more reflective of current conditions
in industry. ”
—Steve Pedersen and Mary Ann Keen, “Waste Reduction in the Semiconductor Industry,” Proceed-
ings of Conference on Hazardous Wastes and Hazardous Materials (Silver Spring, MD: Hazardous
Materials Control Research Institute, March 1987).

Waste reduction is not undertaken because the generally accepted broad definition of waste
minimization and the way it is promoted encourage generators to satisfy waste minimization report-
ing regulations with traditional methods of waste management.
A major consulting firm to industry and government acknowledges the unique, critical benefit
of waste reduction—reducing the generation of waste—but attributes lower generation of wastes to
waste minimization, which is defined, “in order of preference [as] (1) source reduction, (z) recycling,
and (3) treatment. ” But the firm says that waste minimization reduces the “volume and/or toxicity
of hazardous waste. ” With this interpretation, waste treatment that simply concentrates a wastestream’s
hazardous components counts as waste minimization, without lowering risks to public health and
the environment.
—Stephen W. Kahane, “Waste Minimization Audits,” Proceedings of California Solvent Waste
Reduction Alternatives Symposia (Sacramento, CA: Department of Health Services, October 1986).

Analyses, even those now being developed for waste minimization purposes, can be biased
against waste reduction. In addition, such systems are viewed as a less complicated company pol-
icy than direct policies to remove recognized, but diverse, obstacles to waste reduction.
One of the country’s leading, large, diversified manufacturers says “. . . waste reduction is the
best situation of all; no waste, no liability!” Its “approach has been to develop a financial analysis
workbook and companion computer software program which will allow plant personnel to determine
total waste management costs including future liability considerations.” But it is not clear that waste
reduction would be explicitly examined at all. Although the methodology raises the costs of land dis-
posal techniques to better reflect their total long-term costs, it assumes virtually no liability for in-
cineration and, thereby, places incineration on a par with waste reduction. Thus, even though the
direct costs of incineration maybe high, they maybe low relative to total land disposal costs which
is the base case and not waste reduction. This might be the case especially if onsite incineration or
existing industrial furnaces or boilers are chosen (see box F). Plant management can use this dollar
savings to support incineration and other similarly evaluated treatment technologies instead of waste
reduction because there is a focus on reducing liabilities: “Those programs that reduce all liabilities
and are the best according to established financial proceedings are to be implemented. ”
The company financial analysis “method offers several advantages over company policies such
as an end-tax on waste or a five-year waste reduction plan. ” The company believes that such direct
“policy approaches are difficult to administer” for large, highly decentralized and diversified firms.
Why? Because of differences between corporate divisions, differences among treatment options and
wastes, allocation of resources to other shorter term needs, and a lack of technical expertise at some
plants. Clearly, these conditions exist for many companies and constitute obstacles that must be directly
addressed if waste reduction is to be systematically chosen instead of traditional waste management.

—Richard W, MacLean, “Financial Analysis of Waste Management Alternatives, ” Proceedings of Conference on Hazard-
ous Wastes and Hazardous Materials (Silver Spring, MD: Hazardous Materials Control Research Institute, March 1987).

within the confines of their production opera- out the hazardous waste management system
tions to cut the generation of waste, This lan- and, ultimately, more broadly throughout all
guage is consistent with the concept of pollution of EPA’s pollution control programs. 26
prevention. Any activity by which hazardous But this statement is not reflected in EPA’s long-
waste is handled, managed, or transported poses term policy option.
risks and costs, requires complicated regulation,
offers less certain environmental protection Second, it is highly likely that EPA has not
than waste reduction, and contributes to indus- yet officially recognized large amounts of in-
trial inefficiency and heightened public concern dustrial wastes as hazardous. GAO has recently
about the environment. EPA has defined waste studied this problem and its findings are con-
minimization to refer to all options other than sistent with those of other studies, including
land disposal, consistent with statute, but has OTA’s 1983 report on hazardous waste. In its
excluded waste treatment in its report on waste report GAO said:
minimization, EPA has not clearly stated that EPA does not know if it has identified 90
certain actions should be shown infeasible be- percent of the potentially hazardous wastes or
fore a generator steps down the hierarchy. only 10 percent, according to the division di-
Recycling and treatment, instead of waste re- rector responsible for hazardous waste iden-
duction, may be emphasized in future waste tification . . . Ten years after the Congress
minimization activities by EPA. Based on EPA’s mandated the identification and control of
report, it is impossible to predict to what ex- hazardous wastes, EPA cannot say what por-
tent future EPA waste minimization actions tion of the universe of hazardous wastes it has
will focus on waste reduction. identified and brought under regulation, or
even if it is regulating the worst wastes in
terms of potential impact on human health and
Appropriate Wastes To Cover the environment.27
In OTA’s report waste reduction applies to This should be borne in mind when figures
all hazardous wastes and environmental pol- on the amount of RCRA generated waste are
lutants whether they are regulated under the considered by policy makers, such as the new
air, water, or RCRA programs or not. (The term number of 569 million metric tons annually.
multimedia is often used to describe this broad All such figures refer to only those wastes EPA
coverage,) The alternative, waste reduction ap- has already officially designated as hazardous
plied to any particular category of waste, might and therefore, underestimate the universe of
lead to: 1) less waste reduction than is feasible, hazardous waste that pose risks to health and
and 2) abuse because some actions might do environment. Thus, OTA has found it impor-
little more than transfer waste among environ- tant to say explicitly that waste reduction must
mental media or from one regulatory class to apply to all hazardous wastes, whether regulated
another. by EPA under RCRA or not. Otherwise, a Fed-
Since all of EPA’s waste minimization activ- eral nonregulatory waste reduction program
ities stem from the 1984 RCRA Amendments, will inherit the limitations of the RCRA regu-
the EPA report is concerned with hazardous latory program.
wastes defined as such under RCRA. There are Even if a multimedia perspective were even-
two important limitations to this definition. tually adopted by EPA, delay could cause sig-
First, it is not clear that any EPA waste mini- nificant environmental and economic costs.
mization effort would apply, for example, to While there might be bureaucratic reasons not
discharges to waterways covered by the Clean to consider multimedia waste reduction now,
Water Act or air emissions covered by the Clean
Air Act, The strongest statement in the EPA
report in this regard is: Z81bid., p. 121.
Accounting Office, ~azi?rdous was~e.’
Z7U. S. congress, General

EPA believes that waste minimization must EPA Has Made Limited Progress in Determining the Wastes To
be implemented as a general policy through- Be Regulated, op. cit., pp. 19 and 23.

there is no reason to assume that it would be ing with waste reduction as a program itself.
harder for industrial production people to ap- This perspective systematically biases decisions
ply waste reduction to all of their wastes and against major new Federal efforts aimed
pollutants than only to those regulated under directly at promoting systematic waste reduc-
RCRA. Indeed, some companies already do so. tion. For example, EPA and others consider ris-
But systematic adoption of multimedia waste ing waste management costs and liabilities,
reduction in industry will require overt govern- difficulties in siting waste management facil-
ment policy support. ities, and regulatory burdens as incentives for
waste minimization. 28 But none of these con-
The merits of multimedia coverage and the
ditions were purposefully designed to elicit a
long time the RCRA program is taking to de-
waste reduction response nor is there any evi-
termine all the wastes that should be regulated
dence that they have done so systematically,
as hazardous support the option of new legis-
and it is misleading to call them incentives for
lation by Congress rather than a continuation
waste reduction. Since current regulatory pro-
of waste reduction being confined to RCRA.
grams are not purposeful incentives, policy-
makers should be cautious about their value to
Incentives and Disincentives v. increase waste reduction. Increasing regula-
Enhancements and Obstacles
tions and improving their enforcement have
The EPA report devotes considerable atten- their own merits, but they are unlikely to offer
tion to market incentives that can drive indus- as effective and efficient a way to increase
try toward waste minimization. However, gen- waste reduction as do policies designed to pro-
eral conditions that can lead to a range of mote waste reduction. It is a mistake to believe
responses are not necessarily an effective in- that nothing other than attempts to fix the cur-
centive for any particular response. Intentional rent regulatory system has to be done to spark
and purposeful design are crucial for develop- a major movement by industry to comprehen-
ing effective waste reduction incentives and dis- sively reduce waste generation. Existing regu-
incentives and in developing public policy latory conditions provide motivation and po-
options. tential benefits for waste reduction but not
necessarily the means to reduce waste genera-
An effective incentive is a specific action or
tion and reduce the obstacles in the way.
condition that is likely to elicit a specific desired
response. A disincentive causes parties to pur- There is also another fundamental problem.
posefully avoid a specific response. A general General regulatory conditions are not neces-
condition that elicits a range of positive re- sarily effective incentives or enhancements for
sponses, including the desired response, can waste reduction because many other more fa-
be called an enhancement to the desired re- miliar, intended, and unwanted responses (e.g.,
sponse. One that leads people away from the waste treatment, regulatory compliance, and
desired response or makes the desired response illegal disposal, respectively) can displace or
less attractive can be called an obstacle. For limit waste reduction. Environmental costs may
development of policy options it is necessary rise faster than generators can reduce waste
to focus on obstacles and problems relative to generation. Responses other than waste reduc-
a desired outcome, such as waste reduction. tion by all sizes and types of companies include:
Government is not needed if things are going
well. ZaAn example of this perspective in the private sector is: “onCf3
In the EPA report the terms incentive and a manufacturer is forced to confront the realities of proper haz-
ardous waste management, and in turn the higher cost associ-
disincentive are used in confusing ways. The ated with that treatment, management, then you will force an
Federal RCRA regulatory program was empha- assessment of the production practices and waste reduction. ”
sized and conclusions drawn about its impacts [Richard C. Fortuna, Executive Director, Hazardous Waste Treat-
ment Council, testimony before the House of Representatives,
on waste minimization instead of examining Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources subcommittee,
the benefits which might accrue from proceed- Sept. 24, 1986].

● regulatory compliance that maintains an than waste reduction.zg The mere expression
end-of-pipe approach for regulated wastes; of concern about liabilities does not mean that
● payment of higher waste management it will affect decisions. While 10 of 13 waste
costs to continue use of commercially avail- managers interviewed said that their firms were
able pollution control technologies; “very concerned” about hazardous waste lia-
● plant closings or relocation to foreign sites; bility, only three said that it was a significant
● changing waste management technology waste reduction factor. In speaking to a large
because of regulations or to reduce liabili- number of people in industry, including peo-
ties (see box F); ple in large companies who work at the plant
• internalizing waste management to reduce level, OTA has found this situation to be very
liabilities and costs by reducing the use of prevalent. Decisionmakers seek optimal choices
offsite facilities; within the limits of their knowledge and ana-
● finding regulatory, legal, and political op- lytical resources.
portunities to avoid or delay compliance;
The EPA report does not include a discus-
sion about the dual nature of general regula-
● noncompliance, illegal disposal, or accept-
tory conditions (of their role as obstacles as well
ance of fines and penalties as a cost of do-
as enhancements) but concludes that regula-
ing business.
tions are more effective as enhancements than
Moreover, the regulatory system: 1) does not as obstacles. While the EPA report appendices
apply to all hazardous wastes and environ- give some attention to industry, there is no dis-
mental pollutants, 2) is unevenly enforced, and cussion in the summary volume of how widely
3) often undergoes changes that send contradic- differing factors (e.g., management style, proc-
tory messages to generators that foster a wait- ess type, and age) can affect the way compa-
and-see attitude, nies adopt waste reduction.
General regulatory conditions, therefore, may OTA conducted a survey of industry to gain
have positive or negative consequences with insight into the duality of general regulatory
regard to waste reduction and, depending on conditions. The results served as the basis for
specific company circumstances, may be en- a discussion in the OTA report of why the cur-
hancements for or obstacles to achievable waste rent regulatory program is likely to act as an
reduction. Clearly, some generators will always obstacle to waste reduction. Briefly, some of
be positively affected by regulatory conditions. the key reasons why responses other than waste
However, the regulatory system, by itself, has reduction are likely are:
and will not motivate widespread waste reduc-
• greater familiarity with waste management
tion unless one or more of the following are
and pollution control by workers, man-
found to be valid:
agers, and advocates in companies and
● Generators facing rising environmental trade associations;
costs and liabilities do not at the same time ● a belief (which is, in fact, incorrect) that

face significant obstacles to waste re- waste recycling and treatment technol-
duction. ogies are, or can be made, safe enough to
● The current regulatory system is compre- minimize liabilities as much as waste re-
hensive and effective. duction can;
● The merits of waste reduction can be used
to expeditiously expand and fix the regu- ‘Robert E. Deyle, “Source Reduction by Hazardous Waste Gen-
latory system so that environmental costs erating Firms in New York State, ” Syracuse University Tech-
for generators increase and cause them to nology and Information Policy Program Working Paper No. 85-
010, as cited in Robert Deyle and Rosemary O’Leary, “Small
reduce waste generation. Quantity Generator Liability and Regulatory Compliance,”
Proceedings of the National Conference on Hazardous Wastes
Some recent research has verified that con- and Hazardous Materials (Silver Spring, MD: Hazardous Mate-
cerns about liabilities stimulate responses other rials Control Research Institute, March 1987).

Box F.—Burning Waste in Industrial Furnaces and Boilers Can Reduce Interest in Waste Reduction
Land disposal restrictions in RCRA and limited availability of high-cost commercial incinerators
increase interest in using onsite or offsite furnaces and boilers. Interest is especially strong for liquid
organic hazardous waste such as spent solvents. The waste serves as a substitute for fuel.

Level of Interest
Industry .—Waste generators want to use either their own furnaces or commercial cement kilns,
lime kilns, and iron-making blast furnaces. For the latter costs are said to be one-quarter to one-third
of prices charged for hazardous waste incinerators. 1
Government.—EPA and State regulatory officials, for the most part, support and encourage use
of industrial furnaces and boilers. It is seen as a way to allow implementation of land disposal bans
and still allow industry to generate waste.

EPA is establishing regulations for burning hazardous waste in industrial furnaces and boilers
which thus far have escaped regulation because they have been considered as recycling or recovery
operations. EPA’s proposed regulations, however, will not pose serious problems. For example, no
test burn may be necessary, no routine measurement of discharged solids for hazardous metals with
regard to leachability, nor testing for specific toxic air emissions will be imposed. Moreover, for small
quantity wastes there will be a regulatory exemption and for many cases the solids discharged will
not be considered hazardous until shown otherwise, as is now the case for incinerators. The net effect
of all this will be to speed up permitting of facilities and to give them a competitive advantage over
conventional incinerators whose only function is to burn hazardous waste. z

Issues and Concerns

● Government regulation may be ineffective. For example, solid products produced by furnaces that
may contain hazardous substances, such as lead, may pose risks when in use.
● Generators may have more liability than proponents suggest due to handling and storage of waste,
residual waste in product, and toxic air emissions.
● There is a strong economic motivation for furnace operators to use far more waste than is neces-
sary for fuel purposes. This could reduce furnace reliability and effectiveness, result in contami-
nated products, and cause unsafe storage and handling which has often occurred in the past at
“sham” recycling facilities. More money can sometimes be made from burning waste than from
making product. And wastes with no fuel value are also being talked about for burning in industrial
furnaces. 3

Impact on Waste Reduction

The promotion of industrial furnaces and boilers as an environmentally acceptable, low cost, and
convenient alternative to land disposal is an obstacle to waste reduction. Compared to land disposal,
generators with insufficient interest in or knowledge of waste reduction see an economically attrac-
tive, government-sanctioned option for their waste management. Ironically, many of the wastes tar-
geted for industrial furnaces are the easiest to reduce the generation of by in-process recycling and
raw material changes. Moreover, the risk of sham recycling or ineffective burning makes this waste
management option a particularly poor alternative compared to the benefits of waste reduction.
I Michael Benoit, “The Use of Industrial Furnaces for the Destruction of Organic Hazardous Wastes, ” proceedings of conference on A4inimiz-
ing Liability for Hazardous Waste Management (Philadelphia, PA: American Law Institute and American Bar Association, April 1987).
ZLisa Friedman, oral comments at conference on Minimizing Liability for Hazardous Waste Management, Apr. 3, 1987.
3Benoit, op. cit.

● inability of companies to simultaneously completed a 2-year innovative program in waste

devote resources to legally demanded reg- reduction, It has obtained evidence of substan-
ulatory compliance and to voluntary waste tial waste reduction as a result of a proactive
reduction; program that sends county inspectors into
● lack of a technical support structure and plants to conduct waste reduction audits and
rewards for production people who must make recommendations to generators. so What
implement waste reduction and lack of is important for national policy development
time to do it; is what the Ventura County has concluded:
● a mistaken belief that no waste reduction
The government, so far, intends no further
opportunities remain; public intervention and assumes that com-
● lack of technical information to pursue panies have the motivation, finances and in-
waste reduction, including the exact link- formational resources that are necessary to de-
age between waste generation and specific velop and implement their own hazardous
industrial operations; and waste reduction program. The Ventura Coun-
● lack of accounting systems that allocate ty Program results, however, reveal that this
environmental costs to specific production assumption is not the case and that genera-
operations, where waste reduction must tors are not fully aware of all waste reduction
occur, in order to provide the economic methods and opportunities.
motivation to assess waste reduction. Local programs, through established rela-
tionships with hazardous waste generators
These reasons (see box E for recent exam- and involvement in land use processes, can
ples) for nonwaste reduction responses to gen- provide incentives, information and other as-
eral regulatory conditions are obstacles and can sistance that is necessary to achieve signifi-
be addressed by public policies and corporate cant hazardous waste reduction in their com-
actions, Even though they result in less waste munities. 31
reduction, they are not disincentives since they
Ventura County also conducted a survey of
do not purposefully move decisions away from the 75 companies it worked with and found
waste reduction. This may explain why these
obstacles are often ignored or discounted.
Moreover, it is not possible to generalize as to A large component of corporate resistance
their presence and effect with regard to com- to volume reduction comes from the man-
pany size or type of industry or product. Nor agerial level. Attitudes toward changing ex-
is OTA suggesting that the above reasons are isting “habits” affect the implementation of
strategies to reduce waste generation. Man-
caused by the regulatory system. For example,
agement, it appears, will often select “proven
EPA and others point out that a lack of capital methods” of waste disposal rather than try-
in smaller companies is a reason why they do ing to innovate new methods to reduce vol-
not practice waste reduction. But many com- ume of waste generated. Companies, we
panies, both small and large, with capital to in-
vest are more likely to allocate it to product de-
velopment, plant expansion, or diversification 3oA]though OTA finds that the definition of waste reduction
rather than waste reduction. Moreover, al- used by Ventura County, like the term waste minimization, poses
problems because it includes recycling and treatment and that
though waste reduction projects may offer at- the data reported does not measure waste reduction correctly,
tractive paybacks (in the majority of cases in there is little doubt that the program has resulted in significant
less than one year), they may still be less than waste reduction. However, the figure generally quoted of 70 per-
cent waste reduction over the 2-year program may overstate or
some product-related projects. understate waste reduction as defined by OTA. It was based on
aggregate generation data of wastes shipped offsite and not waste
An important new piece of information sup- reduction data from specific companies on a production output
ports the view that government intervention basis.
Slventura County Environmental Health Department, “Haz-
must overcome existing obstacles to waste re-
ardous Waste Reduction Guidelines for Environmental Health
duction and provide direct assistance to gener- Programs,” draft, prepared for the California Department of
ators. Ventura County in California has just Health Services, March 1987.

found, were reluctant to take risks with un- ulations. These regulations have incidental and
proven technologies or recyclers, were not unintended secondary impacts on waste reduc-
aware of alternatives and in several cases were tion, which have probably not been sufficiently
not interested in changing habits.32 positive to justify concluding that nothing more
has to be done by government. Only those com-
In Summary panies and individuals with desire, necessary
information, and means can translate potential
Recent information and the OTA analysis
benefits created by the regulatory system into
provides strong support for a Federal waste re-
specific waste reduction actions.
duction initiative designed to address multiple
obstacles through a nonregulatory program. Moreover, EPA’s definitions and scope for
The Federal Government has done very little a future waste minimization program, as well
intentionally aimed at promoting waste reduc- as its current regulatory programs, often chan-
tion. This includes the RCRA waste minimiza- nel private sector efforts away from waste re-
tion certification and reporting requirements duction to traditional pollution control activi-
because their intent is not to encourage waste ties. The EPA report assumes effective positive
reduction but to discourage land disposal prac- influences on waste reduction from existing
tices. Existing EPA programs are chiefly con- regulatory programs and has embedded waste
cerned with compliance with end-of-pipe reg- reduction activities within a regulatory frame-
—. —------ . work that has historically given no priority or
Szventura county Environmental Health Department, Progress
Report on Ventura County Hazardous Waste Volume Reduction serious support to waste reduction. (See figure 1
and Alternative Technology Program, April 1986, p. 26. on EPA organization and waste minimization.)

Figure 1 .—EPA Organization and Funding for Waste Minimization


l l l l l l l l l w

Air Research Pesticides

and and and
Radiation Development Toxic

I $30,000”

I 1.
Office of Office of Office of Office of
Engineering and Underground Emergency Waste
Technology Storage and Remediai Solid
Waste Program
Demonstration Tanks Response Enforcement
. *
I 1
Hazardous Permits
Waste Engineering Waste
Management and State
Research Program
Laboratory Division

I l l
Pollution State Permits
Technologies Program
Division Control Branch Branch



Thermal Chemical and Waste Land

Destruction Biological Treatment Disposal
Branch Detoxification Branch Branch


Waste Waste
nlmlzatlon Minimization
Research and Planning
Development $280,000’

“ FY88 budget request

SOURCE” Office of Technology Assessment

EPA’s position on several important waste generators because they reduce waste manage-
reduction issues is unclear, because separate ment costs and to government because of lower
statements in the EPA report appear to support use of land disposal, but they do not offer the
either side of questions likely to be posed by same environmental or economic benefits as
policymakers. These ambiguities can affect con- waste reduction, as EPA’s report agrees (see
gressional policy options and the success of any below). Dewatering is not waste reduction, it
national effort to encourage systematic waste is waste concentration.
reduction. Three questions are examined:
The American public increasingly sees waste
1. Does EPA regard waste reduction as the reduction as key to hazardous waste manage-
option of choice? ment. One of the most active groups, the Citi-
2. Does EPA require a new congressional zens Clearinghouse for Hazardous Wastes, has
mandate? said:
3. Has EPA made a strong commitment to
Of all the ways to manage hazardous waste,
a major waste reduction effort? waste reduction is the most logical and attrac-
tive with the ideal being waste elimination at
Does EPA Regard Waste Reduction the source. If you don’t produce wastes in the
as the Option of Choice? first place, you don’t have to worry about land-
fills, incinerators or injection wells. If there’s
Do those who generate waste and pollution no waste disposal problem, nightmares like
have a responsibility to fully explore waste re- Love Canal, Times Beach, MO and Woburn,
duction before deciding on less environ- MA don’t recur.33
mentally effective and less economically sound As early as 1976, EPA put waste reduction
options such as waste treatment? OTA found at the top of the hierarchy of hazardous waste
that waste reduction has traditionally had options but relied on the marketplace for its
primacy, but more in theory than practice. implementation. That early endorsement of the
Nevertheless, theoretical primacy is a basis for hierarchy concept is acknowledged in EPA’s
public policy development. If EPA does not give waste minimization report, which contains
such primacy to waste reduction, then the statements similar to those in the OTA report
agency is unlikely to give waste reduction pri- to support the primacy of waste reduction.
ority in its waste minimization efforts. And, if EPA’s report says:
EPA does not give primacy to waste reduction,
industry as a whole will not. Both Congress and EPA believe that prevent-
ing the generation of a waste, when feasible,
A further issue is a subtle change in language is inherently preferable to controlling it after
in EPA’s report that would sanction as waste it is generated. 34
reduction actions that did not reduce toxicity Preventing the generation of a waste is the
(see box G). In changing HSWA’s “volume or only way to eliminate risk rather than reduce
quantity and toxicity” to “volume or toxicity,” it. 35
the environmental benefits of waste reduction
are reduced or, in some applications, negated. It is clear that the second statement does not
In the OTA report actions that merely reduce apply to recycling and waste treatment but only
waste volume are not waste reduction. An ex- to waste reduction. The following comment
ception is when a generator changes a produc-
tion process so that less waste of the same con- Sscitizen>s Clearinghouse for Hazardous Wastes, Inc., “Reduc-
centration (or toxicity) is generated. But, this tion of Hazardous Waste: The Only Serious Management Op-
differs from volume reduction after waste has tion,” December 1986, p. 2.
WU. S. Environmental Protection Agency, Report to Congress.’
been generated, such as dewatering sludge. Minimization of Hazardous Waste, op. cit., p. v.
These actions are often attractive to waste 351bid<, p. 7. Italics in original.


Box G.—What Language Best Protects the Environment:

Volume and Toxicity, Volume or Toxicity, or Degree of Hazard?
HSWA on Waste Minimization waste minimization and refers to the need to re-
Throughout HSWA Section 224 on Waste duce the ‘volume or quantity and toxicity’ of haz-
Minimization, Congress used the phrase “reduce ardous wastes. EPA does not interpret this lan-
the volume or quantity and toxicity. ” [underline guage to indicate that Congress rejected volume
for emphasis] In one instance, paragraph (a)(3), reduction alone (with no change in the toxicity
the phrase is shortened to “reduce the volume of hazardous constituents) as being a legitimate
and toxicity. ” As a consequence of this language, form of waste minimization, A generator that re-
EPA wrote and promulgated regulations requir- duces the volume of its hazardous waste, even
ing the affected generators and permit holders if the composition of its waste does not change,
to certify and submit reports to EPA that wastes is accomplishing beneficial waste minimization. ”
are being reduced both by volume and toxicity. Page iv: “Because both volume and toxicity of
In addition, in HSWA Congress requested EPA wastes present dangers to human health and the
to report to Congress on the feasibility y and desira- environment, measuring the effectiveness of
bility of establishing standards or other actions waste minimization will be complex. ”
to require generators to “reduce the volume or
quantity and toxicity” of their hazardous wastes. Page 13: “. . . the end result [of waste minimi-
zation as defined by HSWA] must be a reduction
in the volume, quantity, or toxicity of wastes gen-
EPA Report on Waste Minimization erated and sent to land disposal, ”
While EPA has not requested Congress to Page 13-14: “By calling for simultaneous reduc-
amend the wording adopted in HSWA, state- tion in both volume and toxicity, Congress ex-
ments are made throughout its report that imply pressed a clear desire to avoid defining dewater-
such a change is appropriate depending on the ing and other processes which merely
goal chosen for waste minimization or to ease concentrate wastes as being primary methods of
the implementation of a waste minimization waste minimization. EPA supports this Congres-
program. sional concern, but also believes that Congress
did not intend entirely to disqualify volume re-
The following statements represent a major
duction by itself (with no change in toxicity) as
change in language that could substantially alter
the nature of technical activities carried out by a waste minimization technique, For example,
waste generators. Instead of aiming at activities
EPA considers it beneficial if a firm can change
its processes to produce less waste per unit pro-
to reduce the generation of waste, generators
duction, even if the composition of the waste does
could place emphasis on reducing their waste
not change. EPA also believes that waste concen-
management costs by focusing on reducing the
volume of wastes only after they are generated, tration may occasionally be a useful approach
without regard to the toxicity of the waste. to waste minimization, such as in relation to ame-
liorating shortages of land disposal or treatment
Page ii: The definition of waste minimization capacity, or in preparing materials for recycling.
for purposes of the report to Congress reads: The key concept is that waste minimization must
. . . activity undertaken by a generator that re- enhance protection of human health and the envi-
sults in either (I) the reduction of total volume ronment. ”
or quantity of hazardous waste or (2) the reduc-
Page 39: “Policies that focus on reducing the
tion of toxicity of hazardous waste, or both, so
overall volume of hazardous waste may not nec-
long as such reduction is consistent with the goal
essarily be best from the point of view of pro-
of minimizing present and future threats to hu-
tecting human health and the environment. On
man health and the environment. ” [underline for
the other hand, if the overriding priority in waste
minimization is to lower burdens on treatment
Page iv: “Section 1003 of HSWA [that should capacity, the Agency might want to focus on a
be SDWA; HSWA has no such section] estab- different set of waste streams than if the main
lishes the general national policy in favor of goal is to reduce high toxicity streams. ”

OTA Report on Waste Reduction not reveal whether there has been a change in
the degree of hazard of the waste. Without a de-
Page 21:”. . . actions that reduce waste volume
crease in the degree of hazard of the waste, the
by concentrating the hazardous content of a
action is not considered waste reduction. ” How-
waste or that reduce hazard level by diluting the
ever, OTA does regard a decrease in the amount
hazardous content are not considered waste re-
of waste generated per unit of output, with no
duction in this report.”
change in composition, as waste reduction.
Thus, the OTA report concurred with Congress
Page 23: “The best way to measure waste re-
that both reduction in volume and toxicity was
duction is to determine the changes in the abso-
necessary to reduce risks to health and the envi-
lute amounts of hazardous components . . . With-
ronment, But, OTA then expanded the issue of
out guidance on the relative degrees of hazard
toxicity by discussing ‘degree of hazard’ so that
for specific hazardous substances, waste gener-
those wastes hazardous because of their inflam-
ators could face burdensome analytical costs for
mability, corrosiveness, or explosiveness are also
periodic measurements of the complete chemis-
properly considered. In certain circumstances
try of their wastes, which may be highly com-
such characteristics can be as significant as tox-
plex and vary over time. The current regulatory
icity if waste is mismanaged.
system has, for the most part, done little to
Page 22: “If a waste is not totally eliminated, differentiate hazard levels among the many hun-
however, actions taken to reduce waste may also dreds of common hazardous substances. There-
change the chemical composition and the con- fore, if the government is to encourage effective
centrations of the components of the waste. waste reduction, it may have to assist generators
Therefore, examining changes in just the amount in selecting the most hazardous components of
of waste generated relative to production may wastes for measurement and reduction. ”

about the limits of regulated pollution control with avoiding the generation of wastes al-
also supports the primacy of waste reduction: together . . . in the long term, waste minimi-
zation must take on a priority of its own.38
However, control technologies are never 100
percent efficient, and compliance with regu- These statements are correct, for waste reduc-
lations under any environmental program can tion, not waste minimization. Waste minimi-
never be perfect, even with the most stringent zation for purposes of EPA’s report includes
enforcement program.36 waste reduction and recycling; the HSWA def-
Other EPA statements are not as clear be- inition also includes waste treatment. But, only
cause of confusing use of the term waste mini- waste reduction prevents the generation of
mization. For instance, EPA stated: waste.

Waste minimization helps protect human

EPA, in its report, examines but does not de-
health and the environment because it reduces cide on the primary goal of waste minimiza-
the total amount of waste that is generated and tion. EPA statements on goals include the fol-
managed , . . Waste minimization is a con- lowing:
structive approach to avoiding the risks of . , . if the overriding priority in waste minimi-
breakdowns in the waste management sys- zation is to lower burdens on treatment capac-
tem—wastes not generated cannot be illegally ity, the Agency might want to focus on a differ-
disposed or emitted by faulty or inefficient
ent set of waste streams than if the main goal
equipment. 37 is to reduce high toxicity streams . . . Actions
In a policy context, EPA says: may be very different depending upon
whether the goal of waste minimization is to
Waste management deals with wastes after relieve capacity shortages, reduce risks to hu-
they are created; waste minimization deals man health or the environment, or minimize
economic inefficiencies.39
‘Salbid., p. v. aeIbid., p. 29.
sTIbid., p. 10. SeIbid., p. 39.

The goal of relieving waste management ca- Does EPA Require a New
pacity shortages undercuts the primacy of Congressional Mandate?
waste reduction as a preferred environmental
and economic option. There are other ways of Congress is at an early stage of considering
relieving possible shortages, including: 1) al- options for waste reduction. Therefore, it is im-
lowing continued use of land disposal, 2) delist- portant to know whether EPA is able to make
ing waste as being hazardous, 3) not adding a strong commitment without further legisla-
more wastes to the RCRA system, and 4) speed- tive action. EPA’s requirements or goals are not
ing up permitting for waste management fa- clear from its report. EPA has not explicitly re-
cilities. quested any actions of Congress,
Because it has not decided on the primary Regarding its “strongest option . . . to pro-
goal of waste minimization, EPA has not been mote waste minimization, ” EPA says:
able to use the primacy of waste reduction to No new legislative authority would be re-
develop policy options in its report. primacy, quired to launch such a technical assistance
unambiguously stated, could justify significant effort, but adequate and sustained support by
levels of commitment and funding for waste Congress would be necessary over the next ten
reduction programs, although the regulatory years if it were to achieve its potential , . . Un-
programs would continue, because of their na- fortunately, non-regulatory programs have
ture, to require the bulk of EPA’s resources. Al- often failed at EPA for lack of statutory or reg-
though the policy consequences of acknowledg- ulatory deadlines and institutional advocacy.
ing the primacy of waste reduction are missing For such a program to work, it must be given
strong organizational support within the
in EPA’s report, EPA could still develop pol-
Agency. EPA is willing to make this commit-
icy options comparable to but different from ment, and seeks support from Congress to en-
a major regulatory reform effort, seek compara- sure its success . . . but intensive implemen-
bility with pollution control programs, address tation of a strategy relying on nonregulatory
the merits of facilitating a transition from reg- approaches will demand strong support and
ulated pollution activities to voluntary waste direction from Congress.42
reduction, and could stress the need to act
It is not clear whether these statements are a
quickly when it says:
request for new legislation or if “strong sup-
Once made, these commitments [to waste port and direction” is a request for funds. EPA
management] will be difficult to change. 40 may be saying that it needs further congres-
In summary, EPA’s report strongly suggests sional policy statements, authorization, and ap-
that waste reduction has primacy over waste propriation to give the necessary commitment
management from an environmental protection to waste reduction.
standpoint, This is consistent with the exist- Regarding waste reduction and recycling, the
ing congressional statement of national policy. focus of its report, EPA says:
But the EPA report’s statements about the goals
of waste minimization and its policy options These are the areas where national policy
is still evolving and where findings of the
do not address the fundamental difference be-
desirability and feasibility of specific options
tween waste reduction and waste management, still need to be made.43
The basis for OTA’s waste reduction policy op-
tions is an emphasis on the primacy of waste
reduction. Policy direction is needed to clarify
this important issue of the primacy of waste

411 bid., p. 116.

4ZIbid., pp. XX, xxvi, a n d lZ4.
So Ibid., p. xxiii. AsIbid., p. 13.

72-675 0 - 87 - 2 c/L.: 3

Again, EPA may feel that it needs further direc- Has EPA Made a Strong Commitment
tion from Congress. This may well be true, as to a Major Waste Reduction Effort?
several parts of the 1984 RCRA Amendments
do not directly implement the national policy This is a critical question from a congres-
statement that gives primacy to waste re- sional viewpoint. If EPA has already embarked
duction. on a program that is broadly supported by Con-
gress, then no further action may be deemed
Regarding an EPA option to impose manda- necessary by Congress (or others) interested in
tory waste audits: promoting more waste reduction. If not, then
Requiring a waste audit of all generators Congress may need to act if it concludes that
would probably require additional legislative present conditions will not cause industry to
authority, although it might be argued that au- expeditiously reduce waste generation to the
thority already exists under Section 8 of maximum feasible level.
EPA has recommended a core waste mini-
Mandatory waste reduction audits may or may mization program in the near term. This non-
not require new legislation. However, EPA has regulatory program would principally support
not committed itself to this option. As with man- passive information transfer and technical
datory waste reduction regulations, the agency assistance implemented through the States. But
will offer “its next formal report on this sub- the report does not discuss several factors im-
ject in December of 1990.”45 Depending on what portant to the program, such as the level of fund-
it has found, it might then seek congressional ing, whether—and how much—money would
authority to pursue mandatory waste reduction be available to the States, and whether there
audits. would be changes in EPA’s organization and
Thus, it is not clear whether EPA is making structure.
a commitment to waste reduction (or waste The following representative statements in
minimization) unconditionally or is asking Con- the report are not specific enough to answer
gress for more detailed and explicit direction. these questions.
EPA’s budget requests suggest that it is wait-
ing for new congressional direction to make Aggressive action in favor of waste minimi-
zation is clearly needed .. .48
a strong commitment.
To make a significant impact on waste gen-
OTA’s report presented three major policy eration, such [nonregulatory] programs would
strategies for congressional consideration: one have to be intensive and well directed.47
that requires no new congressional waste re- Despite the strong existing incentives for
duction action, one that would employ a tradi- waste minimization discussed earlier in this
tional regulatory approach and would require report, EPA’s role could be considerably ex-
congressional action, and one that would cre- panded into an active, aggressive, and sus-
ate a major new Federal effort through new leg- tained program of technical information.48
islation. A government-supported technical An expansion of Federal involvement in this
assistance program makes the last OTA option aspect of waste minimization could go far
the most consistent with what EPA may pur- toward increasing the efficiency and pace of
sue in the near term. But the OTA report dis- industry’s natural inclination to reduce waste
cusses a much wider range of actions and a generation. 49
much higher level of funding than does EPA.

*Ibid., p. xxv.
4TIbid., p. 124.
~41bid., p. 114. 4eIbid., p. 115.
4SIbid., p. 132. QoIbid., p. 11.

EPA intent is not clear in the following state- methods; government might need to support
ment under the heading of “The Outlook for expensive technology demonstration programs.
Federal Waste Minimization Policy”: The OTA report emphasizes State grants to sup-
port in-plant technical assistance and also sug-
EPA still has much to learn about the spe-
gests a way to shift resources from legally man-
cifics and potential of waste minimization, and
is only beginning to develop an active strat- dated regulatory compliance to voluntary waste
egy for studying and promoting it . . . Because reduction.
the data are insufficient and because it is still A recent EPA report, Unfinished Business:
too soon to assess the effects of HSWA require- A Comparative Assessment of Environmental
ments, EPA can do little more in this report Problems, on environmental problems and EPA
than to suggest the principal issues of con-
cern. 50 priorities, also bears on EPA’s commitment to
waste reduction. 52 There is a strong indication
The principal action EPA recommends, a in the report that EPA sees its spending on haz-
nonregulatory technical assistance effort, is an ardous waste regulatory programs as high when
example of “non-regulatory programs [that] the risks posed by hazardous waste are com-
have often failed at EPA for lack of statutory pared to those from other environmental prob-
or regulatory deadlines, and institutional ad- lems. Although the methodology used to reach
vocacy. ”51 The last factor is crucial to success- that conclusion has problems, it suggests the
ful implementation of any waste reduction pro- alternative of shifting spending on hazardous
gram. However, EPA’s report does not describe waste from costly regulatory programs to rela-
how it will provide institutional advocacy for tively inexpensive nonregulatory waste reduc-
waste reduction. tion efforts.
The OTA report examined the pollution con- Although the EPA report has many positive
trol culture, the traditional environmental pro- qualitative statements in favor of waste reduc-
tection system that has evolved over the past tion, they are not backed up by budgetary or
two decades and found that waste reduction other quantitative measures of EPA’s plans.
poses a major shift in thinking—a paradigm Since the release of EPA’s report, the agency
change—about how to best achieve environ- has released its fiscal year 1988 budget request,
mental protection. Given natural inclinations Funds for waste minimization total $398,000
to resist change, institutional advocacy for for activities in the Office of Solid waste, the
waste reduction will be difficult unless waste Office of Research and Development, and the
reduction has a prominent place in EPA’s orga- Office of Policy Planning and Evaluation. This
nization and significant funding. And indus- budget request is less than what was spent in
try is unlikely to emphasize waste reduction fiscal year 1986 and the same as in fiscal year
unless EPA does. 1987. It is 0.03 percent of the total EPA operat-
EPA’s focus on technical assistance consist- ing program budget of $1.5 billion. 53 Four States
ing of passive information transfer, for the most (California, Illinois, North Carolina, and New
part, is inconsistent with its conclusion that York) have budgets for waste reduction or mini-
there has been a great deal of waste reduction mization programs greater than EPA’s request.
in the past. If this were correct, then the easi- This low level of support for waste minimiza-
est waste reduction measures would have been tion—presumably only some fraction is allo-
taken already by many waste generators and cated for waste reduction—is in puzzling con-
options other than the simplest forms of tech- trast to the many statements in the EPA report
nical assistance would be needed now. Waste
generators would need help in how to use com- 5ZU, , Environment] Protection
S Agency, Unfinished Business:
plex and capital-intensive waste reduction A Comparative Assessment of En vironmental Problems (Wash-
ington, DC: EPA, Office of Policy Analysis, February 1987).
5qThe operating program budget excludes Superfund, the un-
S’JIbid., p. 29. derground storage tank trust fund, and the construction grants
SIIbid., p. xxvi. program.

about need and commitment for a major Fed- ernment could respond by making it easier to
eral waste minimization effort to assist indus- delist wastes as hazardous under RCRA and
try and the States. This low funding level may by siting and permiting new waste management
be particularly troubling since, as EPA states, facilities over the objections of affected com-
actions taken in the near term in the waste man- munities. Such actions might be much easier
agement area that are driven by the 1984 RCRA than implementing a new waste reduction ef-
Amendments are likely to preempt waste re- fort, but they do not offer the same level of envi-
duction actions. Money spent for building or ronmental protection and economic benefit.
using waste treatment facilities will not be spent One way to begin to prevent such a regressive
for waste reduction. situation is to embark rapidly on a major waste
reduction program that aids industry to turn
Without a major Federal program to assist
its attention and resources to waste reduction
industrial waste reduction, the government
may be pressed to retreat from the policy of as soon as possible. But this cannot be done
greatly limiting the use of land disposal. Be- on $398,000 per year or even a few million dol-
cause of extensive problems in siting and per- lars per year. (Table 3 presents statements from
mitting new waste management facilities, in- the EPA report on the agency’s past and future
dustry could argue that the government relax waste minimization activities and compares
those statements with actual budgets and with
its restrictions on land disposal to avoid dis-
rupting industrial operations or a comeback of the activity evaluations that were included in
illegal waste disposal. Alternatively, the gov- the OTA report.)

Table 3.—Funding Levels and Evaluations of EPA Waste Minimization Activities

EPA report: descriptions of activities Budget commitments: past and future OTA report: evaluations of EPA activities
General commitment:
“Reduction of waste has long been a goal “Government spending on waste reduction
of EPA. This is, in fact, the third report to reflects a general lack of priority for pollu-
Congress on the general subject, the tion prevention government [Federal,
other two having been submitted in 1973 State, and local] spent almost $16 billion
and 1974 regarding the reduction of non- in 1984 on pollution control. OTA esti-
hazardous ‘post-consumer’ wastes .“ [p. mates that government spending on
15] waste reduction totaled only $4 million in
Looking ahead: EPA FY 88 fiscal year 1986.”
“An active, aggressive, and sustained pro- waste minimization
gram for technical assistance appears to budget request
be the strongest option available to pro- OSW ... ... ... .$260,000
mote waste minimization, especially in ORD . . . . . . . . . . . 108,000
the near term.” [p. xx] OPPE . . . . . . . . . . 30,000
Total ., .. .$398,000

Existing waste minimization activities:

Office of Solid Waste and Office of Research and Development
“Consistent with HSWA objectives to foster OSW’s “In keeping with Congress’ initial low-key
waste minization practices The Office waste minimization budget approach to waste minimization, OSW has
of Solid Waste (OSW) has, over the past 2 FY 86...$550,000 (est) not assumed a leadership role and con-
years, attempted to design an efficient in- FY 87 . . . 260,000 siders waste minimization a low-priority
tergovernmental division of labor among FY 88. , 260,000 (request) item on its agenda. If considered at all,
EPA Headquarters, the EPA Regional waste minimization is something for the
Offices, and the State hazardous waste future.” [p. 161]
programs. ” [p. 65] “It is a reflection of the lack of any focus
“EPA Headquarters and the Regional on waste minimization that responsibility
Offices are taking a leading role in sup- for the current requirements of the 1984
port of the Federal-State partnership by RCRA Amendments [HSWA] is shared by
conducting three essential functions: many portions of OSW. ” [p. 162]
regulatory control; technical and financial
assistance; and information sharing and
management. ” [p. 65]
Regulatory control: “EPA has implemented “As of March 1986 (8 months after the regu-
[the three regulatory] waste minimization lations were promulgated) little oversight
provisions of HSWA,” [p. 66] was being provided by EPA. OSW was not
aware of [the extent of adoption of waste
minimization provisions of HSWA at the
State level]” [p. 164]
Technical and financial assistance:
EPA’s role has been principally one of “Waste minimization research and develop-
providing financial support through a ment is a low-priority item within EPA. It
number of EPA programs to promising received about $1.2 million—half of 1 per-
State waste minimization efforts. It also cent of EPA’s fiscal 1986 estimated $213.8
provides research support for developing budget for all R&D . . . OTA estimates that
technologies that might facilitate waste much less than 50 percent of EPA’s fund-
minimization by selected industries. ” [p. ing for waste minimization R&D applies to
68] waste reduction, even though the agency
has identified waste reduction as one of
two categories of waste minimization. ” [p.
EPA provides the following as examples of
its technical and financial assistance
. “Congress has allocated $4.75 million in Section 8001 single largest group of projects that
supplemental grant funding to the EPA add on grants resulted and most of the funding [for FY
Regional Offices for State and local funds 85] went for Small Quantity Generator
government hazardous waste manage- FY 85. , .$4.50 million (SQG) education and assistance projects.
ment activities. ” [p. 68] EPA lists the eligi- FY 86 . . . 4.75 million A review of the summaries of 80 such
ble activities for these grants; but does not FY 87 . . . 0 ● projects reveals that most dealt with com-
Iist or evaluate the projects that resulted FY 88 . . . 0 ● pliance needs. Only three projects includ-
from the program. ed waste reduction . . it is unlikely that
waste reduction will become a higher pri-
ority during [FY 86).” [P. 172]

“EPA did not request funds for program



Table 3.—Funding Levels and Evacuations of EPA Waste Minimization Activities—continued

EPA report: descriptions of activities Budget commitments: past and future OTA report: evaluations of EPA activities

● “The Office of Research and Develop- ORD

ment’s Small Business/Small Quantity small business/SQG funds
Generator’s Research Program provides FY 86. . .$326,000
financial support . . .“ [to]: FY 87. , . 103000
FY 88 . . . O*

(1) “. . . Government Refuse Collection Contract per year: OTA did not evaluate this contract because
and Disposal Association clearing- FY 66...$126,000 it was not relevant to reduction.
houses for information on waste FY 87 . . . 103,000
management options . .“
(2) “. State technical assistance and Contracts per year: HWERL “has funded two Small Business In-
educational programs for applied NC: FY 85...$100,000 itiative projects in fiscal year 1966
research on waste minimization . . . FY 86 . . . 100,000 through State waste reduction programs
Funding is currently provided to MN: FY 86...$100,000 (North Carolina and Minnesota). Minneso-
North Carolina and Minnesota. ” [p. ta’s MnTAP will administer $100,000 in
69] grant on applied research project to as-

sist small business in complying with
regulatory problems. The grant will apply
primarily to RCRA hazardous waste and
will not be restricted to waste minimiza-
tion.” [p. 209]
The EPA grants to North Carolina’s Pollu-
tion Prevention Pays Program are used
along with State funds to create a com-
prehensive research and education grant
system. [see pp. 218-219]
. “The Office of Research and Develop- . . is the EPA center [of Excellence] where
ment also supports research and de- work is most directly related to waste
velopment or recycling technology and reduction. Its annual budget is based on
clean manufacturing processes at the the EPA grant [$540,000 per year] . . .
Industrial Waste Elimination Research specific projects have focused on [re-
Center at the Illinois Institute of Tech- search with some relevance to waste
nology.” [p. 70] reduction] . . . The center would like to
pursue waste reduction more directly but
does not do so because the subject lacks
priority at EPA . . . [p. 185]
● Other Office of Research and Develop-
ment activities are listed by EPA as
(1) “The regional support services OTA did not evaluate these activities.
staff serves as a clearinghouse . . .
by fielding requests for technical
information or technology
transfer. . .“
(2) “The Hazardous Waste [Engineer- HWERL’S “Despite claims that HWERL is ‘working to
ing] Research Laboratory is under- Alternative Technologies Division foster increased use of . . . waste reduc-
taking research on waste reduction Waste minimization research funding: tion’ OTA could find little work specifical-
and recycling . . .“ ly directed toward this objective . . .
FY 86....$235,000 Funding for fiscal year 1986 is . . . being
FY 87 . . . . 108,000 used for one contract . . . [on waste reduc-
FY 88 . . . . 108,000 (request) tion auditing procedures].” [p. 184]
(3) ORD “administered funding for ap- “The Center for Environment Management
plied research recently conducted at Tufts University is funded principally by
for OSW in cooperation with Tufts EPA at a cost of $2 million per year
University. The Tufts Center for . . . Waste Reduction and Treatment is one
Environmental Management con- of four ‘clusters of concentration’ [at the
ducted a [waste minimization] for- Center]. Two projects [relevant to waste
eign practices study .“ [p. 70] minimization or waste reduction] have
been completed: a study of foreign
government waste minimization practices
and the organization of a conference.” [p.
Information Sharing and Management:
“EPA can draw upon several existing OTA did not directly evaluate the informa-
sources of information in order to further tion-sharing aspect of EPA’s waste
the dissemination and sharing of knowl- minimization efforts in its report because
edge about hazardous waste generation they had little focus on waste reduction.
and waste minimization policy . .“ [p. 70] The activities have concerned EPA’s
Report to Congress or were not contin-
gent on EPA funding.

“EPA did not request funds for program


Table 3.—Funding Levels and Evaluations of EPA Waste Minimization Activities—Continued

EPA report: descriptions of activities Budget commitments: past and future OTA report: evaluations of EPA activities

EPA lists the following examples of informa-

tion sharing:
(1) Sponsorship of two waste reduction con-
ferences held at Woods Hole in 1985 and
(2) Co-sponsorship and assistance in coor-
dinating three workshops for State Waste
Reduction Programs,
(3) Waste minimization presentations by EPA
staff at seven conferences.
(4) Support to the Environmental Auditing
In the information management category, OTA devoted a chapter in its report to infor-
EPA discusses the value of “existing mation needs and availability for waste
mechanisms [that] afford a significant ba- reduction in setting policy goals and in
sis upon which to develop a comprehen- implementing and evaluating potential
sive overview of the use, movement, and regulatory and nonregulatory programs.
fate of all chemicals and wastes of con- Primarily because waste reduction is a
cern and to determine the changes result- process specific endeavor, little was
ing from altered economic and regulatory found in the existing information gather-
conditions. ” [p. 73] ing capability of EPA that significantly
satisfied those needs.
SOURCES For column 1, U S, Environmental Protection Agency, Report to Congress Minimization of Hazardous Waste, EPA/530-SW-88-033 (Washington, DC: EPA,
Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, October 1988), pages as noted. For column 2, OTA 1987. For column 3, U.S. Congress, Office of Technology
Assessment, Ser/ous Reductiorr of Hazardous Waste, OTA-ITE-317 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, September 1988), pages as noted

The main purpose of this report is to assist In the meantime, within the next few years ac-
the looth” Congress with its deliberations about tions and investments may occur that could dis-
waste reduction. In this section the important place waste reduction actions.
conclusions of the first three sections of this
report are drawn together to identify and ana- Congress itself caused a major reexamination
lyze four critical policy choices on waste re- of waste management and set the stage for this
duction: scenario through some of the 1984 Amendments
1. Is there a need for legislative action? to RCRA (HSWA). It directed EPA to move the
2. Are there advantages to a completely new Nation’s hazardous waste management system
type of legislation? away from land disposal with very strong man-
3. What could new waste reduction legisla- dates to EPA to examine, regulate, and promote
tion include? alternative waste management technologies,
4. What might be an effective level and source such as incineration. The move to widespread
of funding? incineration is occurring despite the unknown
environmental risk that may follow. At the same
Is There a Need for Legislative Action? time, Congress has not given explicit instruc-
tions for comparable measures to move indus-
A significant body of waste reduction litera- try to waste reduction, even though national
ture now exists extending beyond the EPA and policy states that waste reduction is the pre-
OTA reports. Waste reduction is seen by nearly ferred environmental option. EPA only consid-
everyone as: ers the availability of waste treatment capac-
ity—not waste reduction potential—in reaching
● offering substantial environmental and decisions on land disposal bans, including
competitiveness benefits; whether to delay the bans. This situation prob-
● an option that is technically, economically, ably developed because of concerns about in-
and organizationally feasible in the near trusive regulations to encourage reexamination
term and that has many opportunities yet of and change in upstream processes and oper-
available; ations in industry. Indeed, such concerns are
● not being amenable to a traditional warranted, but would not apply with a non-
prescriptive regulatory approach where the regulatory Federal waste reduction program.
government tells industry what to do and This approach was not considered when Con-
when to do it; and gress reauthorized RCRA in 1984.
● as facing diverse obstacles in both govern-
ment and industry.
Superfund was similarly changed in 1986
The findings and conclusions of the EPA re- without considering the potential benefits of
port to Congress on waste minimization are reducing the generation of hazardous waste.
consistent with all of the above statements. Section 104(k) of the Superfund Amendments
Without a congressional directive to do other- and Reauthorization Act of 1986 exerts pres-
wise, however, EPA plans limited activities, no sure on States to assure the availability of haz-
institutional or organizational change, and very ardous waste treatment or disposal facilities to
low funding. This course is consistent with a handle all hazardous wastes expected to be gen-
historical low priority and support for waste erated within the State during the next 20 years.
reduction and EPA’s optimism about the posi- Again, Congress did not require examination
tive effects of its regulatory programs on waste of waste reduction as a way to help create a
reduction. EPA’s proposed small effort would comprehensive waste management system.
probably not alter substantially the incremental However, there is now some discussion of using
increases in waste reduction now occurring. capacity credits to recognize State waste reduc-


tion programs. 54 This is a worthwhile way to ardous waste and even to the elimination of haz-
integrate waste reduction into assessments of ardous materials in products. To these groups,
hazardous waste management capacity needs. lack of action on waste reduction signals a dif-
ficulty in moving incrementally toward a soci-
The ultimate decision not to use a waste-end
ety with minimal use of and exposure to toxic
tax to help fund the Superfund program may and hazardous substances. s’
also be significant. That option had received
considerable analysis, discussion, and support The EPA report concluded that enough in-
over some years.55 Several States have large haz- formation was available to say that much waste
ardous waste taxes or fees. One of the intended reduction has already occurred but that not
benefits of imposing a substantial tax on haz- enough information was available to make a
ardous waste sent to land disposal and perhaps decision on imposing waste minimization reg-
even waste treatment facilities is the promo- ulations on industry, Meanwhile, the report rec-
tion of waste reduction. For example, Judith ommended some type of waste minimization
Enck, the Executive Director of Environmental technical assistance. The likely result of EPA’s
Planning Lobby in New York, said: proposed program is a continuation of a S lO W
increase in the reduction of the generation of
Increasing regulatory fees is one way to en-
hazardous waste; too slow to prevent a poten-
courage source reduction, for instance. I think
getting companies to reduce the amount of tial major shortage in waste management ca-
toxic waste they generate out of the goodness pacity, if it is going to occur. This development
of their heart isn’t going to happen, If they can could cause the government to back away from
be convinced on economic grounds that re- its goal of greatly restricting land disposal.
ducing the amount of toxic waste that is gen-
The OTA report to Congress offers a range
erated is in their interest, they’ll come around.
I think the whole key is economics. so of broad policy approaches grouped according
to probable outcome. It identified and discussed
Proponents of waste reduction have seen the abroad range of obstacles that exist in both gov-
decision to not use a Federal waste-end tax as ernment and industry which block many com-
a lack of interest in and support for waste re- panies from examining and thoroughly im-
duction. plementing waste reduction. These obstacles
Moreover, there is rapidly increasing inter- explain why a bold Federal nonregulatory ini-
est in waste reduction within the Nation’s grass- tiative is necessary if the United States is to gain
roots, citizen-based environmental movement the environmental and competitiveness bene-
that merits attention. People concerned about fits of waste reduction in the near term. If Con-
hazardous waste and environmental pollution gress wants to increase the pace and scope of
are not concerned with statutory and regula- industrial waste reduction, where hazardous
tory subtleties. They focus on goals and results waste is defined in the broadest terms, it could
and recognize waste reduction’s unique abil- adopt a strategy that would establish a strong
ity to offer the most certain and broadly defined Federal nonregulatory program that would not
environmental and public health protection. burden industry. Waste reduction will proceed
Such a preventive approach could extend be- even without a major program at the Federal
yond RCRA industrial waste to household haz- level, but slowly. Some companies may stop re-
ducing the generation of waste after the easi-
“See, for instance, “Development of State Capacity Certifica- est, most obvious ways are adopted. Others may
tion Requirements under the Superfund Amendments and Re- not discover the benefits of waste reduction for
authorization Act of 1986 (SARA), ” draft prepared by the Cen- some time.
ter for Policy Research of the National Governor’s Association,
Mar. 15, 1987.
Sssee, for instance, U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assess-
ment, Superfund Strategy, OTA-ITE-252 [Washington, DC: U.S. 5Tc)ne major national organization, the National Campaign
Government Printing Office, April 1985). Against Toxic Hazards, has already designed model legislation
WJToxjcs jn YOUr Cornrnunjty Coalition Newsletter, Febru- addressing this broader view of toxics use reduction that includes
ary/March 1987, p. 5. waste reduction. It has been introduced in several States.

Information and analysis from EPA, OTA, Figure 2.—End-of-Pipe Approach:

Regulating the Regulations
and several other studies now available to Con-
gress could support a decision to move ahead ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
with a nonregulatory legislative initiative fo-
cused on waste reduction instead of waste mini- 40 CFR Part SO
mization, as defined by HSWA. The timing of [AD-FRL-3163-61
government action is just as important as its Standards of Performance for New
Stationary Sources VOC
nature. Even though waste reduction is a ma- From Petroleum Refinery Wastewater
jor change in strategy and thinking, it is also systems
a logical and immediately available next step AGENCY Environmental Protection
in the development of a comprehensive envi- Agency (EPA).
ACTION: Proposed rule and notice of
ronmental protection-waste management sys- public hearing.
tem. Waste reduction combines the environ- SUMMARY : The proposed standards
mentalism of the 1960s with the economic would limit emissons of volatile organic
compounds (WC) from new, modified,
sensibilities of the 1980s. and reconstructed refinery wastewater
systems. The proposed standards
implement section 111 of the Clean Air
Act and are based on the
Are There Advantages to a Completely Administrator’s determination that VOC
emissions from petroleum refinery
New Type of Legislation? fugitive emission sources cause, or
contribute significantly to, air pollution
A decision to act legislatively on waste re- which may reasonably be anticipated to
endanger public health or welfare.
duction would require a critical choice whether Refinery wastewater systems are part of
to act within the framework already existing the refinery fugitive sources category.
The intent is to require new, modified,
under RCRA, the only environmental statute and reconstructed refinery wastewater
that has focused some attention on waste reduc- systems to control emissions to the level
achievable by the best demonstrated
tion, or to establish an entirely new statute. system of continuous emission
reduction, considering costs, nonair
The following reasons support new legis- quality health, and environmental and
lation: energy impacts,
A public hearing will be held, if
1. First and foremost, waste reduction is up- requested, to provide interested parties
an opportunity for oral presentations of
stream pollution prevention that is differ- data. views, or arguments concerning
ent technically and philosophically from the proposed standards.
the end-of-pipe pollution control basis of This example of a proposed regulation shows how control-
ling, rather than reducing, pollutants can shift pollutants
existing statutes. Almost all of the govern- around and become an unending process. In this instance,
mental and industrial apparatus estab- the petroleum industry was initially required under the Clean
lished over many years for environmental Water Act to build wastewater treatment facilities to treat
oily water from its refinery process units rather than release
protection depend on strategies, technol- the untreated water into the Nation’s waterways. Subse-
ogies, principles, policies, and environ- quently, it has been discovered that the treatment processes
mental specialists that are not appropriate emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air, and now
the VOCs must, in turn, be controlled. Thus, EPA is propos-
for waste reduction. ing that new, modified, and reconstructed refinery wastewa-
2. Tacking waste reduction onto existing leg- ter systems regulated under the Clean Water Act be further
islation, such as RCRA, has not resulted regulated under the Clean Air Act section 111. This proposal
will not control those VOCs emitted from existing wastewa-
in waste reduction receiving priority. It has ter systems.
not been defined clearly nor given focus A waste reduction approach would have been to conduct
in contrast to waste treatment options. (See waste audits of the various refinery processes that generate
the oily wastewater and to devise methods of reducing that
figure 2 for an example of how the current generation. Many waste reduction case studies have shown
regulatory system shifts pollutants among that substantial amounts of wastewater produced from proc-
media compounding environmental prob- ess cleaning operations can be reduced by relatively simple
changes in those operations. By not generating the oily
lems and increasing costs to both govern- wastewaters, the VOC problem would not exist and require
ment and industry.) waste reduction and subsequent attention.
even waste minimization are often ignored SOURCE: Federal Register, vol. 52, No. 65, May 4, 1987, p. 16334.

when the RCRA program is examined. The ernment and industry a near-term oppor-
linkage between waste reduction and what tunity to reduce their environmental costs
many people regard as higher RCRA pri- and liabilities even as the government finds
orities (e. g., enforcement and compliance it necessary to promulgate more environ-
issues) is rarely considered. Moreover, mental regulations.
should Congress assign a substantial waste
Reasons for maintaining the RCRA context
reduction program to the Office of Solid
for a congressional initiative on waste reduc-
Waste (OSW), which implements RCRA,
tion include:
it is likely either that OSW’s priority for
treatment and disposal programs would in- 1. Congress can more easily amend an exist-
terfere with its implementation of waste ing statute than create a new one;
reduction or that current programs would 2. RCRA, which has already dealt with the
suffer. subject of waste reduction, is a timely ve-
3. Waste reduction must address all hazard- hicle since it is scheduled for reauthoriza-
ous wastes and environmental pollutants tion in 1988; and
or opportunities will open up to shift waste 3. RCRA involves fewer committees and sub-
between environmental media. While it is committee whereas a waste reduction stat-
possible to superimpose waste reduction ute might result in shared jurisdiction with
without conflict on the various environ- committees with an interest in industrial
mental programs, it could be difficult to competitiveness.
incorporate a multimedia approach solely
Overall, it would seem more effective and ef-
from within RCRA or any other existing
ficient for Congress to use new legislation if
environmental statute. No matter what
it chooses to move ahead with a major waste
might make technical and economic sense,
reduction initiative. However, a more modest
if the government said that waste reduc-
initiative similar to what now exists could fit
tion only applied to a narrow class of reg-
into the RCRA framework.
ulated waste, then much of industry’s ac-
tions might be similarly focused. The What Could New Waste Reduction
temptation, and perhaps legal need, to ad-
dress waste reduction comparably among
Legislation Include?
all major environmental statutes would There are a host of potentially effective pol-
probably delay action. icy instruments for Congress to consider.
4. Waste reduction is best addressed by gov-
ernment policies aimed at assistance, per- Assistance to Industry
suasion, and institutional commitment.
The environmental and economic benefits of
Both EPA and OTA have said it is not ame-
waste reduction can be used to justify techni-
nable to traditional regulatory or prescrip-
cal assistance by government to industry. Such
tive approaches. This is in stark contrast
actions by government include:
to existing environmental statutes which
rely, almost exclusively, on command-and- In-plant technical assistance to deal with
control regulations. The success of the Ven- site-specific situations. Experts could pro-
tura County waste reduction program sup- vide help to identify waste reduction op-
ports the use of technical assistance. portunities and techniques, establish waste
5. waste reduction bridges the environmental reduction audit and accounting systems,
and industrial competitiveness areas of na- and suggest organizational changes that
tional concern. The traditional regulatory foster waste reduction.
approach to environmental protection re- ● Information and technology transfer
sults in increasing costs to government and through passive databases and catalogs of
industry. Waste reduction offers both gov- case studies and interactive (expert system)

databases. These would make relevant minimally funded State and Federal programs
waste reduction data and information designed to focus on waste reduction, and 2)
available to plant personnel nationwide. studies that have often underestimated future
● Development and in-plant use of education waste reduction potential (discussed in detail
and training activities that help build waste in the OTA waste reduction report). A Federal
reduction expertise among production grants program to States, therefore, could make
people. waste reduction an ally of siting efforts by re-
● Generic R&D on commonly used processes ducing siting needs in the near term to pub-
and materials that can assist many gener- licly acceptable levels.
ators across different industries.
California has recognized this concept. It re-
These efforts address existing obstacles in cently passed legislation to facilitate the siting
both government and industry and constitute and permitting of hazardous waste facilities.
purposeful incentives for waste reduction. They Known as the Tanner process, it includes a pro-
could be funded in part by the Federal Govern- vision for local governments to analyze waste
ment and implemented mostly through State reduction potential with the State Department
governments with the help of Federal grants. of Health Services providing supporting waste
OTA found that State agencies and other par- reduction information. 59
ties close to industrial facilities can more effi-
ciently and effectively implement such an assis- EPA Organization
tance program than can EPA. Existing State
Creating an Office of Waste Reduction with
and sometimes local waste reduction programs
an Assistant Administrator in EPA would be
are a nucleus on which to build a national pro-
a major change. Independence from existing
gram. Their focus on waste reduction and their
EPA pollution control programs is key. This
effectiveness could be rapidly increased
option takes on more importance because EPA
through Federal assistance and a common def-
has said that a nonregulatory waste reduction
inition, method of measurement, and policy
program requires institutional advocacy. Waste
reduction is not a new idea, but past history
In January 1987, North Carolina researchers also makes clear that if waste reduction is to
conducted a survey of 50 States. The results achieve parity with pollution control as a ma-
on siting hazardous waste management facil- jor means to environmental protection, it must
ities support OTA’s findings about the need to have organizational commitment, public visi-
stimulate more State activity on waste reduc- bility and accountability, and institutional ad-
tion. Although OTA found only 10 State pro- vocacy at the highest levels. EPA is, like any
grams with any focus on waste reduction, this other institution that deals with the environ-
survey revealed that 28 States believe that they ment, a member of the pollution control cul-
have a “statutory mandate or program to en- ture that has developed over 20 years in the
courage nonsiting alternatives, such as waste United States. If EPA is to implement an effec-
reduction at the source. ”58 However, when reg- tive waste reduction program, its organization
ulatory officials were asked “How much effect should reflect the primacy of waste reduction.
do you expect waste reduction measures will The lack of such organizational change has
have in reducing the need for future siting of already caused waste reduction to be over-
facilities?” only 21 States said moderate to sig- shadowed by existing regulatory programs, as
nificant, 22 said none to very little, and 7 didn’t shown in figure 1.
know. This result seems an outcome of: 1)
A major new bureaucracy that would add to
the administrative burdens of EPA would be
SeRichard N.L. Andrews and Phillip Prete, “Trends in Haz-
ardous Waste Facility Siting and Permitting,” Workshop on Ne- unacceptable and unwise to many. In terms of
gotiating Hazardous Waste Facility Siting and Permitting Agree-
ments, Conservation Foundation, Mar. 11-13, 1987. Emphasis
in original. SeCalifornia state Assembly Bill 2948 (Tanner).

staff, budget, and responsibilities, however, an between the use of waste reduction and tradi-
Office of Waste Reduction would always be a tional pollution control in industry are many
small part of EPA. A nonregulatory program and varied. They are summarized below in or-
would not have the kinds of responsibilities that der of decreasing priority and need, amplify-
define most of EPA’s operations. The issue is ing the discussion in the OTA report:
not one of size but of providing unambiguous
institutional commitment to a worthy objective.
● National Leadership: A key function of the
office would be the administration of waste
With people committed to waste reduction and
reduction grants to the States. Emphasis
expert about industrial production, even a small
could be placed on expanding existing pro-
office can supply critically needed national
grams that have shown effectiveness and
leadership. A waste reduction program that is
providing seed money for new programs,
submerged within EPA is not likely to have
setting necessary policies and criteria for
credibility with industry and the public, An As-
selection and funding (including perhaps
sistant Administrator can explain and promote
assisting the formation of State waste re-
not only EPA’s waste reduction effort but that
duction boards), establishing standard
of the entire Federal Government and of State
methods of measurement and a standard
programs, Currently, although EPA participates
definition of waste reduction to focus State
in many conferences and workshops conducted
actions,61 evaluating the performance of
on waste reduction, no senior EPA official rep-
funded programs, and transferring suc-
resents the agency, is a visible advocate of waste
cessful ideas among State programs. The
reduction, or is attempting to unite national in-
chief objective would be to develop and im-
terest in waste reduction.
plement a cost-effective national support
Even though EPA has only a small effort on system for very large numbers of waste
waste minimization, a lack of coordination and generators (i.e., many tens of thousands).
consistency among different groups has already ● Information Analysis: The establishment
surfaced. EPA itself noted that: “Some waste and operation of a national waste reduc-
minimization options may require extensive in- tion database would make it possible to as-
ternal cooperation among EPA programs. ” 60 sess progress nationwide. Annual reports
There have already been significant differences could provide information on whether
among the Office of Solid Waste, the Office of voluntary goals established by Congress are
Research and Development, and the Office of being met nationwide and across all indus-
Policy Planning and Evaluation that help ex- tries and analyze unsatisfactory results. In-
plain the inconsistencies and ambiguities of dustry waste reduction plans could be ana-
EPA’s report to Congress on waste minimiza- lyzed to see if sufficient commitments are
tion. Both ORD and OSW seem to acknowledge being made to meet national goals. Gross
the primacy of waste reduction over regulated waste generation and environmental spend-
pollution control activities more than does
EPA’s policy office. These internal tensions BIA need for a standard definition to focus implementation is
may explain the small fiscal year 1988 budget made clear by a recent example from New York State. An April
request for waste minimization that is incon- 1987 staff report of the Joint Legislative Commission on Toxic
sistent with EPA’s report. With the almost in- Substances and Hazardous Wastes, “Hazardous Waste Reduc-
tion: Obstacles and Incentives, ” contains a clear definition of
evitable increase in interest in waste reduction, waste reduction that is consistent with OTA’s definition and dis-
bureaucratic problems are likely to get worse cusses the need to address obstacles to increase waste reduc-
in the absence of a central EPA office with over- tion in the State. Several bills have been introduced in the State
legislature as a result of the report. One bill (S. 5192) sets waste
all responsibility for waste reduction. reduction as the preferred hazardous waste option in New York,
Two others (S. 5190 and S. 5191) establish loan guarantee and
The activities that an EPA Office of Waste waste audit programs. Their stated purpose is to encourage waste
Reduction might undertake to shift the balance reduction but the bills are inconsistent with the definition and
priority given waste reduction, They allow appropriated waste
60U. S . E n v i r o n m e n t ] P r o t e c t i o n A g e n c y , RePOrt tO Congress: reduction funds to be spent on recycling and treatment, options
A4inimization of Hazardous Waste, op. cit., p, 89. that can divert industry’s attention from waste reduction,

ing data could be analyzed to detect ● Regulatory Analysis: Elements of the cur-
whether waste reduction is having a posi- rent environmental regulation system serve
tive impact on waste management nation- as obstacles to waste reduction but also
wide. Use of information gathered from other sometimes move industry slowly in the
EPA programs would also be examined. direction of waste reduction. A critical
● Information Transfer: Industry would be need is to purposefully seek ways to use
assisted, directly or through State programs, existing regulatory programs to promote
either by the establishment of an accessi- waste reduction. For example, permits
ble database of technical information on could be made contingent on explicit com-
waste reduction or by fostering nationwide mitment to waste reduction. Such meas-
use of an existing system. The office could ures are not likely to be a high priority of
design an expert system (i.e., an interac- regulatory programs. Independent exper-
tive computer system that provides an- tise on waste reduction would be needed
swers to questions) to assist waste genera- in any event. Regulations to force waste
tors explore waste reduction options. reduction in industry are a potential for
Information would be obtained from the the future. The office could analyze the im-
grants program and from past and ongo- pact of the current system on waste reduc-
ing technical activities outside the Federal tion, work closely with EPA’s enforcement
effort. Information transfer is not a substi- and regulatory programs to help define and
tute for in-plant technical assistance (pro- analyze opportunities for regulatory con-
vided by States) because the mere availabil- cessions to ease the adoption of waste re-
ity of information provides no certainty duction, and study the feasibility of waste
that a generator will obtain it and be able reduction regulations in case information
or willing to act on it effectively. The first should show that the nonregulatory efforts
priority of this Federal information trans- to promote waste reduction are not suc-
fer effort would be to provide support for cessful. By analyzing and reporting on the
State (or even county) programs and sec- waste reduction impacts of regulatory ac-
ondly to assist individual companies. tions within the formal regulatory activi-
● Outreach: A major obstacle to waste reduc- ties of EPA, the office could prevent the
tion is convincing people that it is a via- creation of more obstacles to waste reduc-
ble, near-term option. This obstacle would tion. This should be a high priority of EPA,
be overcome if the office played a lead role and the office could provide the necessary
in outreach programs, such as workshops, technical expertise and objectivity for this
to educate industry, regulatory officials, task. Bias for waste reduction from this of-
and the public at large about waste reduc- fice would, at the least, balance the exist-
tion. The office could also publicly recog- ing bias for pollution control within cur-
nize industries that practice waste reduc- rent regulatory programs. (See box F for
tion and encourage still more waste a current example; the agency’s decisions
reduction by others. An ongoing, high level on regulating industrial furnaces and boilers
industry liaison group to provide major for burning hazardous waste).
guidance to the office could be established. ● Research and Development: The office
A similar liaison group for the educational could provide and monitor funding to
community could promote the introduc- EPA’s Office of Research and Develop-
tion of waste reduction principles into ment, as the current regulatory programs
engineering and business management do, for waste reduction research identified
curricula. A third liaison group of the gen- as necessary to reduce significant amounts
eral public, environmental, public health, of waste. It could also disseminate R&D re-
labor, and public interest groups would sults from EPA and other sources to indus-
provide important input to the Federal try. R&D would also be possible through
program. the State grants program.

● Implementation of Related Federal Activ- ● Issue Development and Liaison: Govern-

ities: Congressionally mandated activities ment has, for the most part, avoided the
that relate mostly to waste reduction could issue of toxic and dangerous materials in
be implemented by the office. An exam- non-food and non-drug products. The of-
ple is the information gathering aspects of fice could play a lead role in EPA and work
the new Superfund program (Title III of with other Federal agencies and the pub-
SARA) having to do with crude mass lic on this issue and that of expanding
balances of some industrial facilities. (Note, waste reduction to solid waste (i. e., house-
however, that these new data reporting re- hold and commercial garbage). Toxics use
quirements will not provide the govern- reduction is rapidly becoming a broadly
ment with a measure of national waste re- supported concept.
duction because waste generation will be
As difficult as organizational change can be,
reported in several broad ranges only.
creating an independent Office of Waste Re-
Moreover, waste generation will not be re-
duction offers advantages over several other
ported in terms of production output. In
options and what the EPA report says has been
addition, data on only some 300 chemicals
a problem for the agency—the administration
from a fraction of industry are to be col-
of nonregulatory programs. For example, an
lected.) Another example is the Superfund
expanded waste reduction effort within EPA’s
requirement for State assurances for long-
Office of Solid Waste would face tough com-
term hazardous waste treatment or dis-
petition from existing OSW programs. Credi-
posal facilities of State wastes. Implemen-
bility would also be a problem, particularly for
tation will require an ability to review and
establishing a national database on waste re-
assess such assurances and the analytical
duction, since in 10 years OSW has not estab-
bases used. Waste reduction is a key vari-
lished a reliable database on RCRA waste gen-
able that should be included in such State
eration. Establishing a separate waste reduction
division within EPA’s solid and hazardous
● Federal Government Coordination: B y
waste program comparable to OSW would
working with other branches of the Fed-
hamper developing a multimedia basis for
eral Government, the office could promote
waste reduction and, here too, would face very
and measure waste reduction at Federal
strong competition from existing hazardous
facilities; 62 remove obstacles to waste re-
waste management efforts. Creating a waste re-
duction, such as inflexible procurement
duction effort within each major regulatory pro-
and product specification policies of the
gram (air, water, and waste) would also likely
Department of Defense and the Food and
result in duplication of effort, overwhelming
Drug Administration that prevent waste re-
competition from existing regulatory programs,
duction; and use waste reduction perform-
and great difficulties in achieving expeditious
ance as a criterion to select vendors and
and consistent actions.
contractors. Coordination with agencies
such as the Department of Commerce Another alternative, already receiving some
could help to establish waste reduction as attention within EPA, merits discussion. The
part of economic growth and industrial Office of Research and Development (ORD) has
competitiveness. shown increasing interest in waste reduction. 63
WAS in industry, the Department of Defense readily acknowl-
edges that “the financial and legal incentives to reduce or en- 6SAS this specia] report was near completion, the Hazardous
tirely eliminate the generation of hazardous wastes are becom- Waste Engineering Research Laboratory of ORD released a pro-
ing more attractive. ” However, it too uses waste minimization posal in April 1987 to develop a program to “contribute to the
that includes waste treatment and also speaks of the need to re- reduction of technical barriers . . . impeding the adoption of
duce “volume or toxicity” of wastes, thus allowing actions that waste minimization , . . “ [U.S. Environmental Protection
reduce volume and concentrate hazardous components. [Michael Agency, “Waste Minimization Strategy, ” undated.] A funding
J. Carricato, et al,, “Department of Defense Hazardous Waste level of about $3 million for 1988 has been discussed. The major
Minimization, ” Proceedings of the National Conference on Haz- shortcoming of the ORD proposal is a lack of attention to and
ardous Wastes and Hazardous Materials (Silver Spring, MD: Haz- support of in-plant technical assistance to increase the use of
ardous Materials Control Research Institute, March 1987), p. 328.] existing waste reduction information and technology.

There is undoubtedly a role for ORD in over- One of the key obstacles to waste reduction
seeing and carrying out waste reduction re- within companies is that it is not usually a high
search and development and perhaps in the de- priority with top management. Some people in
velopment and establishment of necessary industry are troubled by a policy option sug-
central information systems, as discussed gested in OTA’s report that would compel pub-
above. To have the EPA waste reduction activ- licly owned companies to inform investors,
ity centered in ORD, however, is not an effec- through reports filed with the Securities and
tive way to overcome present obstacles to the Exchange Commission, of their waste reduc-
use of waste reduction in industry. A program tion efforts and progress. It raises the spectre
operated by ORD could not conduct a full range of yet another burdensome government require-
of activities and would not have the organiza- ment to gather more detailed information. How-
tional stature of an agencywide Office of Waste ever, that same information is necessary for
Reduction. ORD has no experience in manag- companies to evaluate waste reduction possi-
ing nonregulatory programs, such as in-plant bilities and, in more detailed form, could be re-
technical assistance. Some problems and limi- ported to EPA and serve useful purposes for
tations of ORD taking the agency lead in waste national policy implementation and evaluation.
reduction are:
New industry reporting requirements—on
● technology per se is not the limiting factor
past waste reduction actions and detailed plans
for more widespread industrial waste re-
for future efforts-is another policy option sug-
duction and ORD has little experience in
gested by OTA that would require new legisla-
addressing nontechnical obstacles and
tion. Government required plans could stimu-
late the kind of attention that would make waste
● no study of waste reduction has revealed
reduction a commonly used option in indus-
any particular need for a major govern-
try. Plans must specify what actions genera-
ment technology demonstration program
tors will examine and take in the future to main-
for waste reduction;
tain the priority of waste reduction.
● ORD would have difficulty in establishing
credibility and effectiveness for a non-
However, reporting and planning require-
regulatory program aimed at assisting in-
ments by themselves do not address lack of in-
dustry, because its experience is mainly in
terest, poor information, and lack of technical
end-of-pipe pollution control, not in up-
resources to reduce waste. Nor would they be
stream manufacturing processes, and its
effective unless there was a standard way of
work is mostly in support of regulatory pro-
measuring waste reduction based on the need
grams; and
to put changes in waste generation on a pro-
● there could be a tendency for ORD to carry
duction output basis for specific processes and
out lengthy studies on waste reduction,
facilities. Without in-plant technical assistance
rather than to actively assist industrial
and other active efforts by government and
waste generators of all types to use exist-
other organizations, a generator may be com-
ing technology through onsite technical
placent or incorrectly assume that there are no
additional waste reduction opportunities. There-
fore, reporting and planning requirements are
Reporting and Planning Requirements
best seen as but a part of a more comprehen-
Even though nonregulatory programs do not sive government program that identifies and re-
require extensive, detailed data to function, in- moves obstacles to waste reduction and assists
formation on correctly measured waste reduc- industry to reduce waste. But reporting and
tion and the cost savings relative to pollution planning requirements are important for gov-
control is necessary. Eventually, EPA will have ernment programs to assess progress and for
to evaluate the effectiveness of a Federal pro- motivating and maintaining the interest of
gram and will need such data to do so. generators.

Voluntary Goals nies that generate and manage large amounts

of waste onsite and therefore, can face substan-
Another option, a 10 percent year-to-year tial capital costs for pollution control facilities
voluntary goal over 5 years for waste reduc- to comply with regulatory requirements. To ad-
tion, has not been suggested as a surrogate or dress these two obstacles to continuing, com-
antecedent to regulatory requirements. 64 Set- prehensive waste reduction, OTA presented the
ting goals would draw attention to waste re- concept of regulatory concessions, an option
duction and provide a simple way to measure that could be implemented in 3 to 5 years, rather
progress and justify actions. than immediately.
Some are unconcerned about such a goal be- Waste reduction might achieve more of its
cause they already use goals for the same rea- technical potential if flexibility were introduced
sons. Moreover, OTA arrived at an annual goal into the current regulatory system. Trade-offs
of 10 percent by using data from several com- between pollution control regulatory require-
panies that showed such a level of performance ments and specific waste reduction plans and
over the past few years. actions could facilitate the expenditure of in-
Nevertheless, some people are nervous that dustrial resources on waste reduction, which
voluntary goals might presage regulations and provides more certain environmental protec-
might penalize innovative and progressive com- tion and enhanced industrial competitiveness.
panies that have already substantially reduced Concessions, such as delayed regulatory com-
waste, Since the first waste reduction oppor- pliance, would be granted only for projects that
tunities tend to be the cheapest and easiest, would provide a net gain in environmental pro-
companies that have not adopted waste reduc- tection and public health. Valid concerns arise
tion could quickly make progress that might about this policy creating opportunities to avoid
prove difficult for those with a long-standing or escape regulatory compliance. These con-
commitment to waste reduction. However, cerns and ways to deal with them are discussed
companies whose commitment to waste reduc- in the OTA report. 65
tion preceded the adoption of national goals
In its study of environmental protection and
would be able to show that they have already
technological change OECD came to important
significantly reduced their generation of haz- conclusions about regulatory flexibility: 66
ardous waste.
. . . flexible enforcement of the regulations
A Long-Term Option: Flexibility in the according to a time schedule and procedures
Regulatory System negotiated between industry and government
are largely responsible for the firm’s techno-
Companies who pursue waste reduction be- logical reaction.
yond the first easy and inexpensive opportuni- A certain flexibility and adjustment to the
ties face increasing technical complexities and special circumstances of each industry can
costs. The current regulatory system imposes pay in the long run.
costs and places demands on a company that It is better to have regulations that are strict
can limit its resources for waste reduction. This but flexibly enforced, than undemanding reg-
may be a significant problem for large compa- ulations hastily enforced.
An exemption which allows industry suffi-
H4There has been some confusion over the 10 percent annual cient time and latitude to develop new tech-
voluntary goal figure, Note that over 5 years a year-to-year 10 nologies is usually favorable for technologi-
percent level of waste reduction, where each year’s generation cal change. There may, however, be a conflict
serves as the basis for the following year’s goal, results in a total
of 41 percent reduction relative to the amount generated at the
start of the 5-year effort and 65 percent after 10 years. Because 6SConcessions are not a new idea. Both the Clean Water Act
the base is declining, waste reduction in terms of amount of waste and the Clean Air Act have had such provisions; they are also
per unit of production output is declining also, This means that discussed in the OTA report.
if production levels remain constant, progress seen as changes 660rganization for Economic Cooperation and Development,
in the the total amount of waste generated slows down. Environmental Policy and Technical Change, op. cit.

between the desire to facilitate technical What Might Be an Effective Level

change [what OTA calls waste reduction] and and Source of Funding?
the urgent need to protect the environment,
which often means a conflict between urgent Even at the earliest stages of discussion about
short-term measures and greater efficiency in waste reduction programs, current budget def-
the longer term. icits make it necessary to deal with financing
OTA concludes that as difficult as it may be of a Federal waste reduction program. It is im-
to introduce flexibility into the regulatory sys- portant to see a Federal waste reduction pro-
tem, the long-term environmental and economic gram as different from a traditional regulatory
benefits of doing so may more than justify the program. To overcome inertia and smooth a
attempt. As the earlier discussion of U.S. indus- path from pollution control to pollution pre-
try’s relative competitive disadvantage showed, vention may not require major, long-term
other nations seem to have done a better job of funding.
introducing regulatory flexibility. Historically, Considering the environmental priority of
there have always been reasons for granting waste reduction, a small percent of the normal
some U.S. companies regulatory concessions, operating program budget of EPA might be real-
but waste reduction may be the best reason. located to establish and operate an Office of
Waste Reduction. As an example, 2 percent of
A Long-Term Option: State Waste EPA’s fiscal year 1988 budget request of $1.5
Reduction Boards billion (excluding Superfund, underground
To deal with concerns about implementing storage tanks trust fund, and construction
regulatory concessions and a number of other grants programs) would provide $3o million for
waste reduction policies, OTA suggested that waste reduction.
State waste reduction boards, similar to exist- A funding level of $3o million, achieved by
ing State hazardous waste siting and manage- a 2 percent cut in all of EPA’s existing programs
ment boards, assess waste reduction benefits
and operations, would be small enough not to
and work with regulatory agencies on regu- threaten the effectiveness of those other efforts.
latory concessions. State boards could also play The cut might be across the board, or it might
a major role in implementing any Federal be made at the discretion of EPA, or Congress
grants program and could provide expert might direct that cuts be made in certain areas.
panels to help answer a key question: has a com-
pany already made a good faith, documented This method of funding could generate $255
effort to reduce generation and does it have a million for a 5-year program by increasing the
plan to do more? Since the OTA report, the figure to 3 percent in the second year and 4
Michigan Toxic Substances Control Commis- percent ($60 million annually in terms of the
sion has recommended the creation of a State fiscal year 1988 request) in the subsequent three
waste reduction board.67 Some existing State years. This level of funding might seem too low
waste management boards as well as some in comparison to the benefits of expeditious and
States’ active divisions that focus on waste re- systematic waste reduction. However a new,
duction could, of course, be alternatives to new separate Federal waste reduction program could
organizations. encourage and assist in a national transforma-
tion carried out by industry and would not be
an activity where the government has a major
operational role. Thus, these figures are con-
sistent with government action that stimulates
widespread private actions in the public good.
e~he Michigan Toxic Sustance Control Commission, “White
Paper: Investigations and Recommendations for the Develop- Federal waste reduction grants to States prob-
ment of a Comprehensive Michigan Program in Hazardous Waste
Reduction,” prepared by Waste Systems Institute of Michigan, ably would account for most (80 to 90 percent)
Inc., October 1986. of the money appropriated. EPA has said:

. . . only the States have the close knowledge gram, Federal spending on waste reduction
of local industry that would be necessary to might pay for itself. Moreover, the savings from
ensure successful implementation of non- waste reduction are more certain than from
regulatory programs.68 energy conservation because waste manage-
This level of funding to States is equal to about ment costs increase steadily while energy costs
10 percent of current grants to States in pollu- sometimes decrease. Hence, increased tax rev-
tion control regulatory programs. Yet it would enues are more certain from a Federal waste
provide about 10 times the money now being reduction program.
spent by some States on waste reduction, mak- Spending for other than the State grants could
ing a 10 percent matching fund requirement be limited to $5 million to $10 million annu-
a feasible option. It would increase in-plant ally (including funding of ORD efforts), equiva-
assistance from a tiny fraction of the Nation’s lent to about 10 to 20 fulltime equivalent (FTE)
waste generators to between 50,000 to 100,000 employees. This FTE level is consistent with
companies over five years. From the national the tasks described above for an Office of Waste
perspective, spending $200 million for 5 years Reduction.
on State waste reduction grants could result
in annual savings by industry of billions of dol- The $255 million total for a 5-year waste re-
lars in avoided waste management costs. 69 As duction program to prevent pollution and, ulti-
has been shown by a federally supported energy mately, the creation of more Superfund sites
conservation technical assistance program, in- amounts to about 3 percent of the $8.5 billion
creased tax revenues from corporate profits re- that Congress has recently appropriated for the
sulting from waste management savings would second 5-year Superfund program. Cleaning up
likely be greater than the Federal cost of the a few major Superfund sites can cost several
waste reduction grants.70 Thus, as with the hundred million dollars. The Governor of New
energy conservation technical assistance pro- Jersey has recently made the connection be-
tween the role of government in waste reduc-
tion and cleanup costs, saying:
wU.S, Environment] Protection Agency, Report kJ Congress:
Minimization of Hazardous Waste, op. cit., p. 124. Right now we are spending billions on haz-
on the 2-year experience of the Ven-
6QThis estimate is based
ardous waste cleanup and on regulating the
tura Country waste reduction program, which cost the county
$1.50,000 and reduced hazardous wastes by an estimated 40,000 storage and handling of hazardous substances.
tons. Given land disposal costs of $250 per ton, for every dollar Yet we don’t spend anything on programs to
spent by Ventura County, its industry is saving $67 annually. reduce the production of waste in the first
An unknown portion of the initial savings was spent on one- place. 71
time capital investments in waste reduction technology and proc-
esses. The estimated savings is conservative, however, since it New Jersey’s recent initiatives to promote waste
is based on only reducing RCRA hazardous wastes and only those
shipped offsite and does not account for other economic bene- reduction include a proposal for fees on waste
fits that accrue from waste reduction such as avoided liabilities generation, creation of an information trans-
and energy and raw materials savings. These factors offset the fer program, and a review and revision of reg-
fact that some wastes probably became treated onsite instead
of being reduced or eliminated and the fact that some of the ton- ulations that limit waste reduction.
nage decrease came from cuts in industry production. A $10
billion annual savings nationwide would result from only about Finally, 5 years of Federal grants might be
10 percent waste reduction for RCRA wastes (50 million tons enough. Once waste generators get direct tech-
annual reduction). See also footnote 30. nical assistance, overcome major obstacles, and
TOThe Department of Energy’s Energy Analysis and Diagnos-
tic Centers, which offer similar in-plant technical assistance, have learn how to implement waste reduction, they
resulted in a federal government internal rate of return of 56 will know how beneficial waste reduction is
to 101 percent per year because manufacturers’ savings become to them, economically. After 5 years, a smaller
taxable incremental earnings. For every Federal dollar spent in-
dustry has saved over $5 annually, Despite the high positive rev- Federal effort (e.g., $10 million annually or less
enue return to the Federal government, in 10 years the program than 1 percent of EPA’s operating budget for
has only managed to assist 1,750 plants because of its limited
budget, which for fiscal year 1987 totals $1.5 million. [See the
University City Science Center’s “Energy Analysis and Diag- TIThornas H. Kean, Annual Nfessage to the New )6WW3J’ state
nostic Centers Fact Sheet,” January 1987.] Legislature, Jan, 13, 1987, p. 23.

nongrant activities including R&D) might be people, government can play a smaller role.
enough to ensure that waste reduction is pur- EPA has said:
sued to its limits, incorporated into new indus-
One critical benefit of technical assistance
trial operations, and perhaps extended to mu- is that it can be started immediately and can
nicipal waste and consumer products. In the show at least some benefits within months of
initial years, States will also learn how to run enactment. 72
effective waste reduction programs that assist
economic growth. An effective 5-year grants OTA agrees, because limited State programs
program, therefore, might permanently alter have started to show this. If technical assistance
how American industry functions. It can be ex- is good, then should it not be made available
plicitly established as a seed program to dem- to American industry nationwide as part of a
onstrate that waste reduction is an effective major Federal effort to encourage waste re-
complement to our current regulatory system. duction?
The experiences of companies like 3M and Dow
Chemical indicate that once the waste reduc- 7ZU,S. Environmental Protection Agency, Report to Congress:

tion lesson is learned first-hand by production Minimization of Hazardous Waste, op. cit., p. 117.

72-675 (64) QL: 3