This paper presents an evaluation of the status and direction of toxic/hazardous waste reduction in the chemical and petrochemical industries from an international perspective. Pertinent approaches, experiences and trends are described. Industrial waste management has evolved from an “end-of-pipe” treatment mentality to source reduction as the preferred option. It is generally agreed that the Chemical/Petrochemical Industries generate more hazardous and toxic waste than any other industrial sector. Also because of the large quantities of materials and energy used by these industries, significant opportunities are available for waste reduction. In almost all cases costs savings have resulted, many of which are significant. The importance of pollution prevention by “clean technologies” instead of remediation, multi-media considerations and the significance of product life-cycle assessment in pollution prevention programs is stressed. Examples are provided which demonstrate, that a proactive approach by DOW, E.I. DuPONT, AMOCO, 3M Corp., CIBA-GEIGY and others is now becoming the norm.
From an international policy perspective, important commonalities and differences in strategy and efforts for toxics/hazardous waste management exist. Much can be learned by the mistakes and solutions between cultures and countries. Much progress has been made in protection of public health and the environment - but much remains to be done. This paper is intended to provide a stimulus for discussion aimed at optimizing future waste minimization activities in the chemical and petrochemical industries.