Performance Track: An Environmental Business Strategy

The EPA’s voluntary Performance Track program offers benefits to companies that strive for high environmental performance.

Waste glass—or “cullet”—stored adjacent to PPG’s Meadville plant is reused in the manufacturing process. “Reusing this material not only helps reduce the amount and cost of raw materials and natural gas,” says Doug Mehan, environmental engineer, “it also is positive environmentally since less waste is taken to landfills.”
PPG Industries, a global supplier of glass, coatings, fiberglass and chemicals, is serious about its commitment to continuous environmental improvement. Between 1996 and 2000, PPG’s automotive flat glass plant in Meadville, Pa., reduced its volume of solid waste by 25%. The plant now reuses more than 100,000 tons of waste glass annually, and it saves more than $500,000 per year by shipping glass to customers in reusable racks that require less packaging material than the rack system used previously.

Because of the plant’s outstanding environmental performance, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has accepted PPG’s Meadville plant into the National Environmental Performance Track, a voluntary EPA program that recognizes and rewards facilities that go beyond compliance and demonstrate environmental leadership.

Performance Track, which was launched in June 2000, is more than just a nice public relations label. Members of the program are eligible for reduced record keeping for reporting requirements and are a low priority for routine inspections. The EPA is also proposing a federal-level Performance Track incentive rule, which would simplify reporting requirements for members under specific provisions of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. In addition, Performance Track members who generate hazardous waste would be allowed to extend their on-site storage for an extra 90 days, provided they have the added protection of secondary containment.

At the annual event for Performance Track participants on April 24, 2002, in Washington, D.C., EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman told the audience, “I am far more interested in making progress than in how many pieces of paper you fill out.” In other words, if companies demonstrate an outstanding commitment to environmental stewardship, the agency believes it should reduce their regulatory burdens. The result, in Whitman’s words, is environmental improvements “beyond what could be achieved through regulation and enforcement alone.”

Participation in Performance Track is considered an indication of good-faith efforts to comply with environmental regulations. If compliance issues do come up, member facilities qualify for good-faith credit under enforcement provisions, which can reduce penalties.

In addition to regulatory benefits, Performance Track members receive public recognition through venues such as feature articles in magazines and on the Performance Track website (, as well as use of the Performance Track logo. Members also can attend information sessions with senior EPA officials and special-invitation conferences to share successful environmental practices.

Currently, 280 manufacturing facilities and other businesses in 40 states and Puerto Rico have qualified as Performance Track members. The EPA is working to enlist additional facilities, including those in the ceramic and glass industries. Together, current participants have committed to reduce solid waste by 225 million pounds, lower greenhouse gas emissions by 26 million pounds, recycle or reuse more than 5 million pounds of materials, and reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds by 98,000 pounds over the next several years—all beyond current requirements.

Performance Track Program Criteria

Performance Track is open to facilities of all types, sizes and complexities, public or private, manufacturing or service-oriented. Once accepted, participants remain in the program for three years, as long as they continue to meet the program criteria. After three years, companies can reapply.

Facilities applying to Performance Track must have the following:

  • An environmental management system in place
  • A history of sustained compliance with legal requirements
  • A commitment to continual environmental improvement
  • Community outreach activities
Additionally, a successful applicant must demonstrate past environmental achievement and commit to continued improvement in facility-specific aspects of the following environmental categories:
  • Energy use
  • Water use
  • Materials use
  • Air emissions
  • Waste generation
  • Water discharges
  • Accidental releases
  • Preservation and restoration
  • Product performance

EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman presents the Performance Track membership certificate to Doug Mehan, environmental engineer at PPG’s Meadville plant.

PPG Meadville’s Performance Track Commitments

The EPA accepted PPG’s Meadville glass plant into Performance Track in February 2002. “We are proud and honored by the EPA recognition,” says PPG Vice President of Environment, Health and Safety David C. Cannon. “It reflects PPG’s commitment to reduce pollution, comply with environmental regulations, and continuously improve our environmental performance and productivity.”

In addition to the 25% reduction in solid waste already achieved, the Meadville facility has pledged to reduce its output of solid waste during the next three years from 5.8 to 5.0 lbs per ton of glass produced—an additional reduction of nearly 14%. The reductions will come from eliminating slag hazardous waste, reusing dust collector waste, reducing packaging materials, establishing annual waste minimization goals, and enlisting the support and involvement of the plant’s management and its environmental management team.

The Meadville plant also has committed to reducing air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and hazardous waste by installing a new, energy-efficient glass furnace. The new furnace burns a mixture of pure oxygen and natural gas, and is only the third such furnace in the world to be used in a flat-glass production facility. It will reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from 26.75 lbs per ton of glass produced to 7 lbs per ton, avoiding 980 tons of NOx per year overall. The new furnace’s energy-efficient design will reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 15% compared with the existing furnace.

The oxy-fuel furnace also produces none of the hazardous waste slag that is a byproduct of conventional air-fired furnaces, thereby cutting the Meadville plant’s output of hazardous waste nearly in half. “Installing oxy-fuel technology will improve our environmental efficiency and enhance our ability to produce high-quality glass for windshields and other automotive products,” says Lynn Hoover, plant manager.

The plant’s efforts have won praise from community leaders as well as from the EPA. “The Meadville plant and PPG are wonderful partners in promoting and enhancing the vitality of the French Creek Watershed,” says Andrew McElwaine, president of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. “The company is an environmental leader, and the EPA recognition simply ratifies that fact.”

Looking to the Future

PPG’s Meadville plant is likely to be joined in Performance Track by many other glass and ceramic facilities over the next few years. The EPA expects membership in Performance Track to grow as the program and its benefits become more widely known. The agency is working to establish additional benefits for members and has signed agreements with states that have similar programs (such as Colorado, Massachusetts, Texas and Virginia) to make it easier for facilities in those states to avail themselves of the benefits of both Performance Track and the state programs. The EPA has established a Performance Track Assistance Project to help small businesses meet program criteria, and industry members have created a Performance Track Participants Association that provides a forum for sharing information and ideas. As Gary Weinreich, environmental manager of BMW, put it during the April meeting of Performance Track participants in Washington, D.C., “This is a great program, and the potential is really unlimited.”

Editor's Note

There are two open application periods each year for Performance Track membership: February 1 through April 30, and August 1 through October 31. For more information about the program or the application process, contact the Performance Track Information Center at (888) 339-7875, e-mail or visit

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