Environmental regulation in the United States has typically focused on pollution control as opposed to pollution prevention. The current regulatory framework obligates companies and other entities engaged in industrial production to comply with stringent control standards. Against this national backdrop, the State of Massachusetts has developed an innovative pollution prevention program that seeks to cut toxic waste at its source - the industrial processes that generate it. The Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction (TUR) Program has achieved dramatic reductions in toxic chemical use and waste for its participants. By combining technical assistance and outreach with compliance and enforcement, the TUR program has achieved major success in helping Massachusetts manufacturers comply with environmental standards while also saving them money.
In 1987, industry and public interests groups carried out successful negotiations, which eventually led to the enactment of the Toxic Use Reduction Act (TURA) by the Massachusetts Legislature. The TURA serves as a foundation for the TUR project. The driving force behind TUR is the focus on eliminating toxic waste during the manufacturing process rather than after production. Through this shifted focus, it is able to provide toxic waste reduction for different media (air, water or soil) at the same time. This "multimedia" approach is different from the conventional pollution prevention method that deals separately with each medium (water discharge policies for water waste, air emission standards for air pollution, etc.). The TUR approach also provides better protections to public health and worker safety since toxics treatment is handled much earlier in the production process. Additionally, the project has three corollary features: a requirement that major manufacturers of toxic chemicals publicly report their waste emissions and develop a plan for reducing them; the formation of an Office of Technical Assistance (OTA) that provides high level technical and scientific advice concerning waste reduction to industries; and the establishment of the Toxic Use Reduction Institute (TURI), an academic organization that develops curricula, conducts research into toxic use reduction, and trains certified Toxic Use Reduction Planners.
All the evidence from the program points to its success. Compared to 1990, the TUR program has helped companies achieve a 24 percent decrease in toxic chemical use, a 41 percent decrease in the generation of hazardous byproduct, and an 80 percent decrease in on-site emissions. This indicates that for each unit of product generated at TURA facilities, there is less toxic material used and much less waste produced. One of the most important aspects of the TUR program has been its ability to lower operating costs for companies. Many have noted that the savings from reducing toxics use have far outweighed the cost of complying with TUR requirements. Though it has not been adopted fully in other jurisdictions, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other agencies in New England have replicated various components of the program. Moreover, the program has attracted international attention, with Brazil, Chile, and Canada remodeling their toxic use programs on the Massachusetts approach.
The TUR Program has demonstrated how a common-sense approach to pollution reduction can achieve significant environmental and economic results.