What is a Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTR)?
A Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) is a publicly accessible database or inventory of chemicals or pollutants released to air, water and soil and transferred off-site for treatment. It brings together information about which chemicals are being released, where, how much and by whom.
PRTRs provide a rich source of data for multiple uses and purposes:
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History of PRTR at the OECD
The OECD began work on PRTRs in response to Agenda 21, the result of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Agenda 21 calls for governments to implement and improve databases about chemicals including inventories of emissions, with the co-operation of industry and the public.
In 1996, the OECD Council adopted a Recommendation on Implementing Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers [C/(96)41/Final], as amended in 2003 [C(2003)87], replaced in 2018 [C(2018)5], which calls for Member countries to establish a PRTR scheme. In line with the Council Recommendation, OECD also published a guidance manual for governments to develop and implement a PRTR scheme.
The work has been conducted within the framework of the Inter-Organization Programme for the Sound Management of Chemicals (IOMC) which was established by UNEP, UNITAR, ILO, FAO, UNIDO, WHO and OECD in 1995 based on the recommendation by the Agenda 21.
In 1998, OECD held the International Conference on PRTRs: National and Global Responsibility in Tokyo, Japan. This conference was the largest and most significant gathering of PRTR experts since the Earth Summit in 1992. This conference produced a blueprint for future international action to enhance and support PRTR implementation (see conference proceedings, Part I and Part II).
After the conference, the OECD has produced a series of technical reports highlighting characteristics of PRTRs. These reports analyse the difference of PRTRs and discuss how a variety of national goals can drive the design of a PRTR and its operation. These activities also serve as a reference for countries developing, or considering the development of, PRTRs.