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Pollutant release and transfer register

Introduction to Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTRs)

 

What is a Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTR)?

A Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) is a publicly accessible database or inventory of chemicals or pollutants released to air, water and soil and transferred off-site for treatment. It brings together information about which chemicals are being released, where, how much and by whom.

PRTRs typically require facility owners or operators who release chemicals (e.g., in such industries as manufacturing and mining) to quantify their releases and to report them to governments on a regular basis.

  • Reporting can be both on emissions from fixed sources (e.g., factory smokestacks) as well as from diffuse sources (e.g., mobile sources such as automobiles, trucks, aircraft and trains).
  • Depending on the threshold a government sets for reporting, facilities can range from large industrial sites to small operations such as dry cleaners.

 

PRTRs provide a rich source of data for multiple uses and purposes:

  • Government agencies – national, state and local – can use PRTR data to measure trends in pollutant releases and waste generation, inform environmental policy decisions, evaluate environmental programmes and, when combined with health-related information, identify potential human health and environmental risks.
  • The public can use PRTRs to: identify potential chemical exposures and risks posed by releases from nearby facilities; make informed decisions; and monitor the progress of facilities’ efforts to lessen their environmental impact.
  • Companies can use PRTR data to identify opportunities to improve efficiency, reduce waste and as a metric for evaluating their progress towards sustainable development.
  • Other stakeholders, such as non-governmental organisations, the news media and researchers benefit from access to published PRTR information – particularly when combined with Geographic Information Systems (GIS)/geographic mapping and toxicity information – to identify possible hot spots of concern or possible correlations between exposure and observed health or environmental effects.
  • Financial firms also use PRTR data to support socially responsible investments, as well as identify potential liabilities of firms and impacts on real estate prices.

 

Download the flyer (PDF version) to find out:

  • What hazardous chemical substances and pollutants are being released to the environment or transferred off-site?
  • How much is being released or transferred off-site over time?
  • Where the releases occur?
  • And by whom?

 

History of PRTR at the OECD

The OECD began work on PRTRs in response to Agenda 21, the result of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Agenda 21 calls for governments to implement and improve databases about chemicals including inventories of emissions, with the co-operation of industry and the public.

In 1996, the OECD Council adopted a Recommendation on Implementing Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers [C/(96)41/Final], as amended in 2003 [C(2003)87], replaced in 2018 [C(2018)5],  which calls for Member countries to establish a PRTR scheme. In line with the Council Recommendation, OECD also published a guidance manual for governments to develop and implement a PRTR scheme.

The work has been conducted within the framework of the Inter-Organization Programme for the Sound Management of Chemicals (IOMC) which was established by UNEP, UNITAR, ILO, FAO, UNIDO, WHO and OECD in 1995 based on the recommendation by the Agenda 21.

In 1998, OECD held the International Conference on PRTRs: National and Global Responsibility in Tokyo, Japan. This conference was the largest and most significant gathering of PRTR experts since the Earth Summit in 1992. This conference produced a blueprint for future international action to enhance and support PRTR implementation (see conference proceedings, Part I and Part II).

After the conference, the OECD has produced a series of technical reports highlighting characteristics of PRTRs. These reports analyse the difference of PRTRs and discuss how a variety of national goals can drive the design of a PRTR and its operation. These activities also serve as a reference for countries developing, or considering the development of, PRTRs.

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