Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers


Based in the principle of people’s right to have access to environmental information, a Pollutant Releases and Transfers Register (PRTR) is a database about releases of potentially harmful chemicals to the environment, which is accessible to the civil society.
A PRTR provides information about releases to air, water and land from a broad variety of productive activities, such as the chemical industry, agricultural operations (pesticides), and transportation activities. It also reports on the transfer of waste and wastewaters from the point where they are produced to the treatment and disposal sites. Therefore, PRTRs are a powerful tool to provide specific environmental information that can help to:

  • Inform people about their environment and their surroundings
  • Track potentially harmful substances through their life-cycle
  • Develop informed policy to improve environmental performance
  • Incentive innovation and use of cleaner technologies in the industrial sector and other productive activities
  • Create a close relation between industry and communities (increased transparency)

Information in a PRTR is periodically collected directly from industrial facilities or other productive sectors into a centralized national database, and subsequently published in a free-access website, or in a national report. Potential applications of PRTR information include mapping the data to discern the proximity of pollution sources to population centres or to ecologically sensitive areas.
The goal of UNITAR’s PRTR Programme is to assist countries in the design and implementation of national PRTRs through multi-stakeholder processes. In collaboration with IOMC, UNITAR developed a 6-step training methodology to design a national PRTR system (Download).

Capacity-building activities

UNITAR PRTR Programme has delivered training and supported PRTR design activities in more than 20 countries around the world, since 1998. UNITAR’s 6-step training methodology to design a PRTR has proved easy-to-use and effective on assisting countries to assess their initial infrastructure to implement a PRTR; to develop the legal, technical, and administrative aspects of a PRTR; and to pilot a first PRTR report at the national level (Download).

GEF global project on implementing PRTRs in six countries

UNITAR is currently initiating a project with UNEP, funded by the GEF, to implement PRTR systems in Belarus, Cambodia, Ecuador, Kazakhstan, Moldova, and Peru and prove these systems as effective tools to report releases of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) to the environment. The project aims to evidence the value of PRTR systems to report chemicals under different Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), such as the Stockholm Convention on POPs. The project will be implemented from 2014 to 2018.

PRTRs as tools to support SAICM implementation

As part of the comprehensive Global Plan of Action of the Strategic Approach to Internationals Chemicals Management (SAICM), PRTR was identified as one of the work areas that are priorities to soundly manage chemicals in countries. Funded by the SAICM Trust Fund, UNITAR is implementing PRTR design projects in Azerbaijan and Panama under the SAICM objectives of systematizing environmental information and improving risk communication. The projects will be implemented from 2013 to 2015. A similar project was implemented in 2010-2012 in Georgia.

PRTRs around the world

Around 30 countries around the world already report their emissions and transfers of chemicals to air, water, and soil through their PRTR systems. Every year more countries are joining this initiative.  

PRTR International Coordinating Group

The International PRTR Coordinating Group provides an opportunity for cooperation between international organizations, governments, and other interested parties regarding PRTRs and related capacity-building activities. This group also ensures coordination among organizations and countries involved in PRTR development and implementation. UNITAR is an active member of the PRTR ICG.

OECD Task Force on PRTRs

OECD has been supporting the development and implementation of PRTR systems in member countries. Important experiences and lessons learned are shared among the OECD countries on the implementation of PRTR systems. This is an important pool of knowledge and tools which the OECD Task Force on PRTRs makes accessible to any country interested in implementing a PRTR. UNITAR closely collaborates with OECD on the development and revision of tools and methodologies to implement PRTR systems. Click here to learn more.

Visit this resourceful global portal developed between the OECD Task Force on PRTRs, UNECE, and UNEP/Grid Arendal.


UNITAR has developed PRTR:Learn, a platform to share knowledge and provide training about PRTR systems. This interactive platform facilitates online forums, webinars, and chats and provides access to several resources. It also includes a comprehensive library with different types of documents that can assist on learning about PRTRs around the world and implementing a PRTR system.