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Pollution prevention and control

Bigg, Martin


Martin Bigg


John Brady


Pollution prevention and control (PPC) is core to effective environmental protection. It is very much about making a difference, the achievement of a better quality of life and a key component of the delivery of sustainable development.
Historically, the objective of PPC has been to prevent further deterioration of the environment as a result of industrial activity or the achievement and maintenance of a particular standard. More recently we have recognized that there are a range of interests at play including social and economic considerations that have to be integrated into environmental decision making.
There are very few pollutants, if any, where we can say that a particular level of pollution is safe to human health or environmentally benign. As a result, instead, we are increasingly asking what can be achieved by the technology and techniques available to us, at what environmental, economic and social cost. This has shifted the focus from the source of the pollution to the individual, animal, plant, natural or man-made feature that is affected. As releases of pollution from high profile sources are successfully reduced, the focus must shift to the many smaller, contained and diffuse sources. One molecule of sulphur dioxide, whatever its source, will have the same impact on a particular limestone pavement or habitat.
A wide range of tools are available for PPC to tackle the diversity of sources and achieve the desired environmental outcome. At the same time we must take account of the factors affecting the different sources, industries and individuals, which include:
• the individual company and its culture;
• the national and local economic profile – is it in growth or decline?
• the size of organizations – are there many SMEs or a few dominant players?
• environmental awareness – is the organization committed or determinedly noncompliant?
Increasingly, organizations are seeing environmental commitment as an asset. Regulation is seen less as a burden and more as a complement to the effective operation of their business and their markets. For the smaller operator regulation is often more of an issue, as it can appear disproportionate to the benefits obtained. Not only is a proportionate approach required, but often different techniques are required to achieve environmental goals. For many operators, ensuring that they have an effective management system, akin to a tachograph in the cab, could be more effective than placing them under surveillance. Support can often be achieved from a far larger number of organizations at lower cost by a successful information/education programme compared with the resources required to pursue a single prosecution. However, prosecution can also have a significant effect in reminding those in a similar position of their obligations.
In order to achieve transparent and consistent environmental protection clear objectives and milestones are required whatever the approach used. This means that if one tool or mix of tools is not achieving an environmental objective, it is obvious and other approaches can be deployed. Robust enforcement is required to maintain respect for and the integrity of regulation, the tools used, and the standards to be achieved. The tool, standard or commitment is sustained and enhanced by prosecution, withdrawal of certification or expulsion from a voluntary agreement.


Bigg, M. (2005). Pollution prevention and control. In J. Brady (Ed.), Environmental Management in Organizations: The IEMA Handbook (337-348). London: Earthscan

Publication Date Jan 1, 2005
Deposit Date Mar 22, 2016
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Pages 337-348
Book Title Environmental Management in Organizations: The IEMA Handbook
ISBN 9781853839764
Keywords regulation, environmental management, pollution prevention and control
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