Teck American, Dow Chemical and Incobrasa Industires were the companies that reported generating the largest quantities of toxic chemicals in production-related waste, according to the EPA’s 2010 national analysis of its Toxics Release Inventory.
The top three companies all handled their waste very differently. Mining company Teck American disposed of all its waste without recycling, treatment or energy recovery. Soybean processor Incobrasa recycled nearly all its waste. Dow used primarily a combination of recycling, treatment and energy recovery, with a small proportion disposed of.
Other companies in the top ten were Koch Industries, Newmont Mining Corp., Honeywell International, the Renco Group, DuPont, Syngenta and Ashland. Each managed between 300 million and almost 800 million pounds of toxic chemical waste.
Thousands of U.S. facilities report to the TRI, a database on releases of over 650 chemicals. The TRI was created 25 years ago by the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).
Facilities reporting to TRI are typically larger facilities involved in manufacturing, metal mining, electric power generation, and hazardous waste treatment. Federal facilities are also required by executive order to report to TRI.
Overall in 2010, 20,904 facilities reported the generation of 21.82 billion pounds of toxic chemical waste. Of this total, 7.9 billion pounds were recycled, 2.4 billion directed to energy recovery, 7.56 billion was treated, and the remaining 3.97 billion pounds were disposed of or otherwise released. Most disposal took place as on-site releases into the air or water, on land or injected underground.
Total production-related waste managed by TRI facilities declined by 19 percent from 2001 to 2010, but increased seven percent from 2009 to 2010. In that year, recycling of TRI chemicals increased by three percent, combustion for energy recovery increased by seven percent and treatment increased by eight percent.
Releases of TRI chemicals decreased 30 percent from 2001 to 2010, driven by reductions in air emissions and on-site land disposal, the EPA said. But releases increased 16 percent from 2009 to 2010, mostly from increases in the metal mining sector.
Just seven of the 26 TRI industry sectors accounted for 92 percent of all toxic chemical releases in 2010, with 41 percent from metal mining and 18 percent from electric utilities.
All of the seven saw releases fall from their 2001 levels, although four of them (metal mining, chemicals, primary metals and paper) had an overall increase from 2009 to 2010. Metal mining had the greatest decrease from 2001 to 2010, with a 29 percent drop.
Meanwhile, releases from electric utilities increased 16 percent from 2001 to 2010. Releases from the paper sector – including paper mills as well as manufacturers of paper products – increased six percent from 2001 to 2010 and 11 percent from 2009 to 2010.