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In 1984, amendments to RCRA established the following national policy, making waste minimization the nation's preferred hazardous waste management practice: “... the generation of hazardous waste is to be reduced or eliminated as expeditiously as possible. Waste that is nevertheless generated should be treated, stored, or disposed of so as to minimize the present and future threat to human health and the environment.”
RCRA requires facilities that generate or manage hazardous waste to certify that they have a waste minimization program in place that reduces the quantity and toxicity of hazardous waste generated to the extent economically practicable.
In 1990, passage of the Pollution Prevention Act expanded the nation's waste prevention policy beyond a RCRA-only framework, to minimizing or eliminating toxic releases to all environmental media and natural resources: “The Congress hereby declares it to be the national policy of the United States that pollution should be prevented or reduced at the source whenever feasible; pollution that cannot be prevented should be recycled in an environmentally safe manner, whenever feasible; pollution that cannot be prevented or recycled should be treated in an environmentally safe manner whenever feasible; and disposal or other release into the environment should be employed only as a last resort and should be conducted in an environmentally safe manner.”
The Pollution Prevention Act has encouraged many organizations to expand their focus from RCRA-only to a multimedia pollution prevention focus. EPA offers a variety of information sources on multimedia pollution prevention.
Many states have also enacted laws that require facilities to complete certain waste minimization activities. Most of these states require facilities to complete a waste minimization plan.