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pollution

the contamination of the environment by the discharge of industrial substances, smoke emissions and the dumping of waste materials and products. In the past, little attention was paid to the social costs of polluting the atmosphere, rivers, the countryside etc., but increasingly governments have passed more onerous regulations covering the use and disposal of industrial materials and production methods. As a consequence industry itself is being forced to invest in appropriate pollution control and limitation systems, and take a more proactive approach to the production and marketing of products which are environment-friendly.

In the UK responsibility for matters relating to the environment resides with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The basic approach of government policy on the environment is that pollution should be prevented at source and that the polluter should pay for the necessary controls (the polluter pays principle). The main measure for achieving this is the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Under the Act the Inspectorate of Pollution is charged with the task of getting businesses to use the best available technology and techniques to prevent or minimize pollution in industrial processes.

Firms which do not comply with the new controls face fines of up to £20,000 in the magistrates' court, and unlimited fines in the Crown Court. Clean-up costs incurred by the enforcing authorities can also be recovered from the polluter. Many countries now have adopted ‘practical’ measures aimed at controlling pollution including the imposition of environmental standards and emission permits (limits set on permissible smoke emission, noise etc levels) and environmental taxes (on production processes and products which cause pollution). Member countries of the European Union (EU) are required to observe various environmental ‘directives’. For example, all new cars produced in the EU are required to be fitted with a catalytic converter to reduce sulphur emissions (typically, adding around £400 to the price of a car); and in 2000, in a landmark case, Greece was fined heavily by the European Court for failing to halt the discharge of toxic waste into the River Kouroupitos in Crete.

Finally, governments have encouraged businesses and householders (through the provision of free ‘wheeliebins’ collected by the local authority) to RECYCLE waste products such as cans, glass bottles and paper.

International recognition and concern at the harmful impact on the ozone layer of toxic industrial emissions (so-called ‘greenhouse gases’ such as CFC and carbon dioxide gases) began to build up in the 1970s and 1980s leading to the Montreal Protocol in 1987. This set a target for the developed countries to ban CFC gases by 2020. In fact, this was achieved by 1995. Further attempts have proved to be more intractable. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the 2000 Bonn Accord committed countries to make substantial cuts in other greenhouse gases (particularly carbon dioxide emissions for coal, gas and oil fuels). Although some 180 countries have signed the Bonn Accord, the biggest polluter nation, the USA, has not. See GREEN CONSUMER, EXTERNALITIES.

Collins Dictionary of Business, 3rd ed. © 2002, 2005 C Pass, B Lowes, A Pendleton, L Chadwick, D O’Reilly and M Afferson

pollution

responsibility for dealing with pollution on polluters. See WELFARE ECONOMICS.

pollution

the contamination of the environment by dirty or harmful substances. In economics, pollution problems such as smoke from factory chimneys, hazardous chemical waste and the dumping of waste materials and products are treated as EXTERNALITIES. Pollution is considered to be a cost of economic growth and a negative input into the measure of economic welfare (see SOCIAL COST, WELFARE ECONOMICS).

Increasingly, governments have passed more onerous regulations covering the use and disposal of industrial materials and production methods. As a consequence, industry itself is being forced to invest in appropriate pollution control and limitation systems and to take a more proactive approach to the production and marketing of products that are environment-friendly.

In the UK, the basic approach of government policy on the environment is that pollution should be prevented at source and that the polluter should pay for the necessary controls (the POLLUTER PAYS PRINCIPLE). The main measure for achieving this is the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Under the Act, the Inspectorate of Pollution is charged with the task of getting businesses to use the best available technology and techniques to prevent or minimize pollution. Firms that do not comply with the Act can be subject to unlimited fines in the Crown Court. At the present time, pollution and other environmental matters in the UK are administered by the DEPARTMENT FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS (DEFRA) and its agency, the ENVIRONMENT AGENCY.

In addition, member countries of the European Union (EU) are required to observe various environmental ‘directives’. Recently, in a first-time case, Greece was fined heavily by the European Court for failing to halt the discharge of toxic waste into the River Kouroupitos in Crete.

International recognition of, and concern at, the harmful impact on the ozone layer of toxic industrial emissions (so-called ‘greenhouse gases’ such as CFC and carbon dioxide gases) began to build up in the 1970s and 1980s, leading to the Montreal Protocol in 1987. This set a target for the DEVELOPED COUNTRIES to ban CFC gases by 2020. In fact, this was achieved by 1995. Further attempts have proved more intractable. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the 2000 Bonn Accord committed countries to make substantial cuts in other greenhouses gases (particularly carbon dioxide emissions from coal, gas and oil fuels). Although some 180 countries have signed the Bonn Accord, the biggest polluter nation, the USA, has not.

See GREEN CONSUMER, GREEN PRODUCT, ENVIRONMENTAL AUDIT, EMISSIONS PERMITS, ENVIRONMENTAL TAX, ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT, MARKET FAILURE.

Collins Dictionary of Economics, 4th ed. © C. Pass, B. Lowes, L. Davies 2005
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