Establishing a PRTR with clear goals and objectives can lead to a number of benefits. It is important to note that governments, the private sector and the public derive different benefits and uses from a PRTR system. Which benefits are realised depend strongly on the goals objectives, design and operation of each specific system.


This section identifies some of the many benefits, uses and advantages that can be obtained from a PRTR system. Given the national nature of a PRTR system, the weight of importance for each benefit can only be determined on a national basis. Hence, no priority order was given to the following list of benefits.


Government, industry and the public

  • PRTR data enables governments to monitor progress on pollution or chemical reduction policy and indicate trends over time. These results can help identify the effectiveness of environmental policy and indicate where adjustments or new policy needs to be made. In addition, PRTR data can be used to monitor progress towards targets and commitments to international environmental agreements and conventions.
  • Results of a PRTR can help pin-point priority candidates to introduce technologies for cleaner production.
  • Indicators for monitoring the environmental performance of industry and governments can be derived from PRTR results. 
  • A PRTR can provide data about accidental releases such as spills or emissions from a fire at an industrial facility. Register results can also be used to plan for possible emergencies by providing insight into the kinds of releases that could occur under emergency circumstances.
  • In more and more countries where investment and financial capital could be tied to environmental performance, data from a PRTR could illustrate environmental performance of particular government and industry policies. In addition, PRTR data could supply useful information for land-use planning activities and in the licensing potential sources of pollutants.
  • PRTR results can be used to help direct research and development for pollution prevention, recycling, recovery and reuse technologies. It can also indicate where technology transfer might be most useful.

Industry

  • Collecting and reporting release and transfer data can assist firms to identify material loss which equates to waste -- or lost revenue. In turn, a PRTR can stimulate more efficient use of chemical substances, e.g. better use and/or recovery of materials and/or other feedstock for production. Increased efficiency means reduced releases and/or transfers over time, this directly relates to increased profits.
  • With regard to industry standards, many companies have confirmed that a PRTR can provide a template for environmental reporting under ISO 14 000 and perhaps help to set the basic framework for integrated pollution reporting. The existence of a PRTR could spur reporting facilities to improve internal auditing activities and set corresponding performance measures Conversely, if industries implement auditing, monitoring and reporting systems in accordance with ISO 14 000, this will greatly facilitate their ability to collect and report PRTR work more cost effectively.
  • PRTR outputs can stimulate the private sector, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to develop leak detection prog
  • rammes and install “good housekeeping” procedures. Alternatively, lists of reporting facilities enable technology providers to identify potential customers, i.e. supply and demand for cleaner technologies can be matched more rapidly and efficiently.
  • A PRTR can compliment active industry programmes such as Responsible Care. PRTR data can provide a baseline and a method to track trends of pollutants that are deemed of priority concern. This information can be turned into performance indicator under the code of management practice on pollution prevention.
  • Collection and collation of PRTR data provides a means for multi-facility operations to compare results among other facilities and within the sector or manufacturing group so as to identify data discrepancies and opportunities for cleaner production.
  • A PRTR offers the private sector the opportunity to lead by example -- providing release and transfer information can change the public’s image and response. It allows for workers and the public to be informed about the pollutant releases and transfers in their local environment.

Public

In terms of the benefits to the public, access and dissemination of PRTR data enables informed participation in environmental decision-making.  Often, unforeseen benefits are identified during the operation of a PRTR system. For example, certain aspects of the environmental status of a facility being offered for sale can be estimated from careful analysis of PRTR data. Investors are increasingly using PRTR data when available to help them to learn more about the environmental behavior of a firm they are considering for investment. Under this scenario, facilities will thus become more fully aware of the financial penalty of not being environmentally responsible. Conversely, this could lead to efforts to reduce releases and transfers.


Many of the potential benefits cannot be readily converted into direct monetary or other tangible units such as avoiding adverse environmental or human health risks or promoting commercial activities in developing technologies for cleaner production and products, or to stimulating more efficient governmental policies to protect the environment. These actions are quite difficult to quantify, yet should be kept in mind as decisions are made as to whether or not a PRTR should be established.
It is important to bear in mind that benefits achieved through a PRTR system do, however, involve some costs. As might be expected, costs are higher at the onset the first reporting cycle when: (i) the reporting facilities that must identify what data to report; (ii) government needs to collect, collate, organise and disseminate data; and iii) the public learns how to access outputs of the PRTR system.


Pollutant release and transfer register (PRTR) systems typically require facility owners or operators to SHORT quantify and report on a given cycle the quantities of hazardous chemical substances and other pollutants they release into the environment or otherwise manage as waste This information is then made publicly accessible. Research shows that, within a country with a PRTR system, various stakeholders benefit from access to PRTR data (UNECE, 2012a; U.S. EPA, 2013a):

  • The public can use PRTR data to: identify potential chemical exposures and risks; make informed decisions, and monitor the progress of facilities’ efforts to lessen their environmental impacts or make improvements in sustainable development practices.
  • Governmental agencies can use PRTR data to: measure trends in pollutant releases and waste generation; inform environmental policy decisions; evaluate an agency’s environmental programmes; assess progress towards sustainable development on a global scale; identify potential human health and environmental risks, and abide with reporting requirements under international agreements and conventions, such as OECD Council Decision C/(96)41/Final, as amended in 2003 C(2003)87 (OECD, 2003a).
  • Regulated entities can use PRTR data to identify opportunities to improve efficiency, reduce wastes and associated costs, and monitor their own progress towards sustainable development.
    Other stakeholders, such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), researchers, news media, and academicians, benefit from access to published PRTR information on local, regional or national scale for various end uses related to research and investigation.

An emerging application of PRTR data is its use in global scale analyses of release and transfers from industrial facilities and other emissions sources throughout the world. For example, data from multiple PRTR systems that can be harmonised (combined) enables the tracking of releases and other waste management quantities of toxic chemicals globally and, therewith, the above benefits can be expanded to a global scale. To allow for robust global applications, it is highly important that data collected by different PRTR systems be as harmonised as possible. A country may consider designing a PRTR system with characteristics similar to other PRTR systems, while at the same time including in the design specific aspects that address the country’s own needs and expectations.


This web page was developed within the project “Support Establishment and Advancement of Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTRs) in Western Balkan Countries and in Moldova” funded by the Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety of Germany under the Program Consultative Support (AAP) for Environmental Protection in the Central and Eastern European Countries, the Caucasus and Central Asia and other countries neighboring the European Union, supervised by the German Environment Agency (UBA),  and implemented by  the Regional Environmental Center (REC), in partnership with the Ministry of Environment and the EcoContact Public Association.