Pollution Avoidance

Technical Applications


Pollution avoidance technologies are those technologies that "avoid the production of environmentally hazardous substances or alter human activities in ways that minimize damage to the environment. These technologies include equipment, processes, and process sensors and controls designed to prevent or minimize the generation of pollutants, hazardous substances, or other damaging materials, as well as technologies used in product substitution or in recycling and recovery of useful raw materials, products, and energy waste streams.


Prevention may include incremental changes to existing manufacturing infrastructure, such as replacing volatile organic compounds with aqueous cleaning systems, using more efficient motors or lighting, or substituting a less hazardous intermediary. But it may also involve substantial changes in industrial infrastructure, such as near net shape casting, no-coke steel making, or entirely redesigned processes (design for environment). Such extensive changes in production processes usually require development of a new attitude toward doing business. They are labeled with different names in various sectors of the economy. Examples in the manufacturing sector are "design for the environment" or "green design." In agriculture, the descriptive phrase is "sustainable agriculture systems."


According to the Environmental Technologies Expert Working Group, process industries such as chemicals, petroleum refining, and pulp/paper, which are large sectors in the U.S. economy and have an international presence, can especially benefit from advances in this area. As worldwide environmental regulation becomes stricter, companies that incorporate pollution prevention technologies into their products and processes will gain competitive advantage. Increased sales of equipment would contribute to job creation in the U.S. A further contribution to economic prosperity is expressed by the contribution of pollution prevention technologies to the success of the PNGV. Sectors of the economy most directly affected are Manufacturing and Transportation and Utilities, Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing, and Mining. Pollution prevention technologies also contribute to the health of the U.S. population by contributing to the security of food and water, and to improvements in environmental quality.


Because of the worldwide focus on the environment, the United States, Japan, and Europe all have a wide range of pollution minimization programs and technologies. There is no clear overall leader. In one important area-- developing alternatives to chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)--Japan, the United States, and to a lesser extent, the United Kingdom have taken the lead. Reductions in manufacturing costs and the development of application-specific products and processes will largely determine competitive position in the next few years. CFC-related research is likely to continue at its present rapid rate or to increase in response to tougher regulations. Japanese and German firms, both with government support, have launched research programs to develop CFC alternatives. Japan, because of its electronics industry, is emphasizing research in solvent technology and has begun to market solvent substitutes and solvent recovery/recycling systems domestically. Germany, is using financial aid and technological assistance to promote its hydrocarbon-based domestic refrigeration program.