In the early 1990s, manufacturers started thinking in terms of "design for" qualities or traits in their products and processes. At the same time, views on risk management began shifting to approaches that promote risk reduction through pollution prevention (also known as source reduction). EPA recognized the need to develop a cleaner, safer technologies program to work with industry to design products, processes, and technologies that are competitive but environmentally preferable. Several non-regulatory, voluntary initiatives on safer chemical synthesis, comparative risk analysis, and alternative technology development merged to create the EPA's Design for the Environment (DfE) Program.
DfE was created as a voluntary program that:
- Champions risk reduction through pollution prevention approaches.
- Empowers industry to articulate and meet environmental goals.
- Integrates environmental, economic, and performance objectives into the redesign of product processes and management systems.
- Creates new government and stakeholder partnerships.
DfE was created to build on the current industry trends to incorporate environmental factors into design decisions. Today's businesses face a variety of challenges, including:
- Maintaining high quality at low cost.
- Staying competitive in a global marketplace.
- Meeting consumer demands for products that are less harmful to the public and to the environment.
The DfE Program provides a context to translate pollution prevention into safer alternatives for industry by:
- Developing and implementing integrated approaches for risk management.
- Coordinating actions with industry sectors, state and local governments, and academic groups that support pollution prevention.
- Making comprehensive, comparative multimedia hazard information accessible.
- Identifying incentives to encourage investment in pollution prevention.
- Placing information into a business-focused context.
- Protecting intellectual property.
Since 1992, the DfE Program has worked with scores of industrial sectors to empower industry to incorporate environmental considerations, along with performance and cost considerations, into decision-making processes. By doing so, companies provide environmental protection more effectively and efficiently by using cleaner technologies.
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