Washington, D.C. - Similar to previous years, in 2013, most of the toxic chemical waste managed at industrial facilities in the U.S. was not released into the environment, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) annual Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) report. The report, published last week, shows that approximately 22 billion pounds— or 84 percent— of the 26 billion pounds of toxic chemical waste were instead managed through the use of preferred practices such as recycling. Of the 4 billion pounds that were disposed of or otherwise released to the environment, 66 percent went to land, 19 percent to air, 5 percent to water, and 10 percent was transferred to other facilities.
From 2012 to 2013, the amount of toxic chemicals managed as waste by the nation's industrial facilities increased by 4 percent. This increase includes the amount of chemicals recycled, treated, and burned for energy recovery, as well as the amount disposed of or otherwise released into the environment. In TRI, a "release" generally refers to a chemical that is emitted to the air, water, or placed in some type of land disposal. Most of these releases are subject to a variety of regulatory requirements designed to limit human and environmental harm.
"We all have a right to know what toxic chemicals are being used and released into our environment, and what steps companies are taking to reduce their releases to the environment or, better yet, prevent waste from being generated in the first place.” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “The TRI Program tracks this information and makes it accessible to citizens and communities. And I'm pleased to see that TRI data show such a commitment to release reductions and pollution prevention on the part of many industrial facilities.”
TRI data is submitted annually to EPA, states, and tribes by facilities in industry sectors such as manufacturing, metal mining, electric utilities, and commercial hazardous waste. Under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), facilities must report their toxic chemical releases for the prior year to EPA by July 1 of each year. The Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 also requires facilities to submit information on pollution prevention and other waste management activities related to TRI chemicals.
Over the past 10 years, total disposal or other releases to the environment have decreased 7 percent, despite a 15 percent increase from 2012 to 2013. The most recent increase was primarily due to increases in on-site land disposal from the metal mining sector, as has been the case in previous years. Metal mines typically handle large volumes of material. In this sector, a small change in the chemical composition of the deposit being mined can lead to big changes in the amount of toxic chemicals reported nationally.
Air releases from industrial facilities increased by 1 percent from 2012 to 2013, mainly due to increases from chemical manufacturing facilities and electric utilities that also experienced an increase in production. From 2012 to 2013, releases to water decreased by 2 percent, primarily due to decreases from the primary metals sector.
The TRI report is available in a new interactive, Web-based format that features analyses and interactive maps showing data at a state, county, city, and zip code level. In addition, information about industry efforts to reduce pollution is accessible through the expanded TRI Pollution Prevention (P2) Search Tool, where the public can nowentify P2 successes and compare environmental performance among facilities and companies that provide data to the TRI program.
To access the 2013 TRI National Analysis report, including long-term trends and localized analyses, visit www.epa.gov/tri/nationalanalysis.
More information on facility efforts to reduce toxic chemical releases, including the new P2 parent company comparison report, is available at www.epa.gov/tri/p2.