Pollution prevention federal action strategy: chapter 4

Defining Pollution Prevention

The goals of the federal government's strategy involve a series of partnerships - with other orders of government, the private sector and individual Canadians. If those partnerships are to be effective, it's important to have a clear definition of what is meant by pollution prevention.

The federal government defines pollution prevention as:

The use of processes, practices, materials, products or energy that avoid or minimize the creation of pollutants and waste, and reduce overall risk to human health or the environment.

Pollution Prevention Practices

Pollution prevention does not simply recast existing methods. It calls for us to change the way we design and operate our mines, farms, manufacturing plants, refineries, transportation systems, parks, etc. How pollution prevention is implemented may vary from sector to sector. Generally speaking, techniques and practices will focus on areas such as:

  • substances of concern
  • efficient use and conservation of natural resources
  • reuse and recycling on-site
  • materials and feedstock substitution
  • operating efficiencies
  • training
  • purchasing techniques
  • product design
  • process changes
  • product reformulation
  • equipment modifications
  • clean production

Pollution prevention is about expanding the range of cost-effective options for environmental decision making. It's about innovation in product design and production. It encourages cost savings through efficiencies and conservation. It's about on-site reuse and recycling, equipment modification and training. It insists on sound management of persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic substances and on eliminating their use where necessary. It offers Canadians an opportunity to achieve their environmental goals in a way that is more effective than the traditional means of environmental protection - in a way that stimulates innovation and our ability to compete.

Changes in behaviour - in the way we plan and do business, in the way we go about our daily lives - are at the heart of the pollution prevention approach to environmental protection. There are a number of ways to help organizations and individuals realize the benefits of pollution prevention and of incorporating pollution prevention strategies into the way they go about their business.

Pollution Prevention - Benefits

  • Minimizes or avoids the creation of pollutants.
  • Avoids the transfer of pollutants from one medium to another.
  • Accelerates the reduction and/or the elimination of pollutants.
  • Minimizes health risks.
  • Promotes the development of pollution prevention technologies.
  • Uses energy, materials and resources more efficiently.
  • Minimizes the need for costly enforcement.
  • Limits future liability with greater certainty.
  • Avoids costly clean-up in the future.
  • Promotes a more competitive economy.

Source: The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment

Innovators in industrial sectors or individual companies have led the way in preventing pollution through voluntary initiatives. Yet for the large majority, government leadership and direction are needed in order to realize environmental improvement. This can be accomplished through enabling legislation that sets the framework for responsive and flexible pollution prevention programs. Legislation provides the basis for development and analysis of environmental information, risk assessment, planning, use of economic instruments, monitoring, regulation and enforcement. It can also be the impetus for self-regulation, product stewardship, and other private sector initiatives.

The benefits of expanding prevention powers and authorities in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act are being studied by the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. The new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act will also provide opportunities to introduce pollution prevention practices at the design stage.

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: