What is a PRTR?

A Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) is a catalogue or database of releases and transfers of potentially harmful chemicals including information on the nature and quantity of such releases and transfers. The data for PRTRs can be collected from point sources of pollution, such as factories, as well as from diffuse sources, such as agricultural operations or transportation activities. A typical PRTR covers releases to air, water and land as well as wastes transported to treatment and disposal sites.

Key features of a PRTR include: periodic collection of information to allow tracking of trends over time; the use of common identifiers for chemicals, facilities and locations to facilitate comparison and aggregation of the data; computerisation of the information for ease of analysis; and dissemination of the information to government policy makers and the general public. Some potential applications of PRTR information include mapping the data to discern the proximity of pollution sources to population centres or to ecologically sensitive areas, as a way of highlighting potential health or environmental impacts and effectively targeting management efforts. Trends in the data can reveal the progress being made by individual facilities or industrial sectors in reducing waste and minimising pollution, or for identifying opportunities for improvement.

To summarise, a PRTR is a means for obtaining regular, periodic information about releases and/or transfers of chemical substances of interest and for making this information accessible to those who may be interested and/or affected by it. As such, a PRTR is a tool for promoting efficient and effective policies for environmental protection and sustainable development.