Many manufacturers are subject to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory or TRI reporting. If you have more than 10 employees, and manufacture, process or otherwise use more than 10,000 pounds of a “toxic chemical,” chances are you are required to file each July either a Form R, listing those “toxic chemicals” or a Form A, explaining why you don’t have to file a Form R.
The TRI reports are the source of the “Worst Polluter” designations found on websites like “Scorecard: the Pollution Information Site.” These labels are based on total emissions from a site, which are generally permitted.
The 2012 data is now available; EPA provides providing analytical tools that can be used to parse the data by zip code, city, state, NAICS code, etc. Emissions are down across the country by 12 percent. Much of that is attributable to less emissions at electrical generating facilities. In the six New England states, emissions were also down, but only by about 2.55%, according to an EPA New England Region press release. Click here to access the tool that provides state fact sheets.
As with most government reporting programs, TRI reporting (and its sister EPCRA Section 312 reporting) serves two functions: First, it appropriately provides any of us information as to what chemicals are used and stored in our neighborhoods, information that we would all probably see as important from our citizen perspective. Second, it indirectly encourages companies to reduce their use of toxic chemicals; no one wants to be on the list of “biggest polluters.” By replacing toxic chemicals with non-toxic chemicals, or by changing processes to not result in the production or require the use of toxic chemicals, companies can often improve their public profile. It often save them money as well, as less or non-toxic chemicals are usually much less expensive to dispose of.
I wrote about this concept in two earlier posts – one focused on avoiding the need for a permit, and the other on OSHA’s Safer Chemical Tool Kit. I am a big fan of pollution prevention and the use of green chemistry. The annual TRI reports just remind me of another reason to be one.