Reducing industrial pollution

Eliminating industrial pollution
Industry is the world's major polluter, responsible for about 90% of the sulphur oxides (SOx), 50% of the CO2 and hydrocarbons, and up to 40% of the nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter that humanity releases into the environment. Worldwide, industry generates over 2,000 million tonnes of solid wastes and 338 million tonnes of hazardous wastes every year. The bulk of these is produced in the OECD countries. For many years such industrial wastes have been released into the environment in quantity and without treatment due to economic considerations, but tighter controls in recent years have encouraged or ensured waste recycling, and appropriate management to reduce their environmental impacts.

This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities.

A greening of industry is taking place as the traditional industrial model of producing product plus waste for disposal is gradually being transformed into a more integrated "industry ecosystem" model which consumes the minimum of energy and materials, generates the minimum of wastes and uses the effluents of one process as the raw materials for another. The UN Environment Programme's (UNEP) Industry and Environment Programme Activity Centre promotes industrial greening. UNEP and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) convened the first World Industry Conference on Environmental Management (WICEM I), which committed itself to develop and promote environmental management in industry. In 1991, WICEM II issued the [Business Charter on Sustainable Development], which is being adopted by companies worldwide. UNEP's Cleaner Production Programme promotes and disseminates information on low-waste technologies.

Capital investment in pollution abatement accounted for about 5% of total industrial investment in Germany, Japan and the USA in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Often up to 60-80% of pollution can be eliminated with only small increases in costs. Thereafter, additional cost rises sharply as the degree of abatement is increased.

Constrained by:
Dumping wastes
Type Classification:
D: Detailed strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean EnergyGOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production