Pollution Prevention 101

What is pollution prevention?

Pollution prevention (P2) is any practice that reduces, eliminates, or prevents pollution at its source. P2, also known as “source reduction,” can be practiced by modifying equipment and production processes, promoting the use of nontoxic or less toxic substances, implementing conservation techniques, and reusing materials rather than putting them into the waste stream.

The benefits of P2 extend to all aspects of a business. P2 practices usually result in a company’s financial savings, enhanced employee safety, and reduced liability and risks. Companies see improvements in their ability to meet their regulatory requirements and frequently enjoy improved company image and employee satisfaction.

Where should you look for pollution prevention opportunities in your business?

There are a few key areas that should be examined for pollution prevention potential.

  • Water use and treatment, including sanitary water, process water, and boiler water use
  • Solid waste streams from production, maintenance, office areas, and warehousing
  • Hazardous waste streams from production and maintenance departments
  • Energy use; focusing particularly on lighting, HVAC systems, compressed air systems, and steam systems

Iowa P2 Services offers no-cost, non-regulatory, and confidential assessments to help you identify what opportunities your business has to save money and reduce your environmental impact. For more information on the assessments we offer, please visit our P2 Assessments webpage.

What strategies are typically applied in a P2 program?

The list below is not comprehensive. Visit our intern case summary index to learn about more solutions that have worked for Iowa companies.

  • Increasing energy efficiency / energy conservation
  • Reducing water and chemical inputs
  • Modifying processes or equipment to produce less waste
  • Using non-toxic or less toxic chemicals as cleaners, solvents, etc.
  • Improved, ongoing employee P2 training
  • Recovering material inputs for reuse within the process (energy, water, waste)
  • Improved maintenance and housekeeping procedures, including preventative maintenance
  • Material tracking and inventory control
P2 Hierarchy

chart showing pollution prevention hierarchy


SOURCE REDUCTION – Eliminate or reduce the generation of waste at the source. Eliminate or reduce the acquisition and use of materials that contribute to waste generation. Substitute less hazardous materials where possible. Conserve water and energy by improving process efficiency. Source reduction is the most preferred waste management strategy.

MATERIAL REUSE – Reuse materials to reduce and eliminate the net generation of waste. For example, reuse incoming packaging for outgoing packaging.

RECYCLING – Recycle or reclaim waste material to minimize the net waste generated. Onsite recycling is preferred over off-site recycling.

TREATMENT – Minimize the quantity, toxicity, and hazardous qualities of waste materials by onsite or off-site treatment.

DISPOSAL – Any remaining waste should be disposed of properly.