A FAB Toxic Inventory

Here is the Environmental Protection Agency's most recent (1999) Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) data for Austin's three largest semiconductor companies, which use highly hazardous materials in the manufacture of microchips. The latest findings, when compared to 1991 data, show a significant reduction in air emissions, and a remarkable reduction in transfers of toxic waste to water/wastewater treatment plants, which TNRCC officials attribute to a much more extensive use of recycling.

Several factors have contributed to the decrease over the past decade, including (1) dramatic changes in the technology resulting in safer manufacturing methods, (2) safer chemical substitutes, and (3) less use of chemicals altogether. EPA reporting requirements have also changed, due in part to industry lobbying efforts.

Texas still tops the nation in the use and disposal of dangerous chemicals, but major corporations are growing less resistant to environmental upgrades. In fact, big industry improvements often have less to do with green consciousness than with cost-effectiveness. Says Blake Kidd, TRI coordinator for the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission: "You have a much better chance now than you did 15 years ago of trying to convince major companies how they can clean up their environment. They're going to run the numbers and discover they can help their productivity by lessening the amount of waste they generate. Most big companies realize now that it's a way for them to get ahead of the curve and sharpen their competitive edge."

(Note that neither Samsung's state-of-the-art facility nor AMD's newest and largest fab, Fab 25, were yet operating in 1991.)

*Air Emissions**Off-SiteTotal Releases
Motorola (Oak Hill)19998,9852,51508,985
199111,102 172262,840273,942
Motorola (Ed Bluestein)199942,3105,260042,310
AMD (Fabs 14,15)199913,38718013,387
AMD (Fab 25)199916,118071,34787,465
Total, 199981,3007,79371,347152,647
Total, 1991301,3897,3891,234,3401,535,729

*Air Emission total includes both stack air and fugitive emissions. Stack air point-source emissions occur through confined or controlled air streams such as stacks, vents, ducts, or pipes. Fugitive air occurs through equipment leaks and evaporative losses from spills or ventilation systems.

** Off-Site Releases: Transfer of toxic waste to water/wastewater treatment plants.

Source: Environmental Protection Agency, Toxic Release Inventory (www.epa.gov/tri/)

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