Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.’s (B&C®) May 18, 2022, webinar “Domestic Chemical Regulation and Achieving Circularity” is now available for on-demand viewing. During this one-hour webinar, Lynn L. Bergeson, Managing Partner, B&C, moderated a timely and fascinating review of the state of sustainable chemical regulation in the United States with Kate Sellers, Technical Fellow, ERM; Mathy Stanislaus, Vice Provost, Executive Director, The Environmental Collaboratory, Drexel University; and Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., Director of Chemistry, B&C.
A circular economy requires new thinking about what products we make, from which materials we make them, and where products go at the end of their useful lives. An important but often overlooked aspect of new product development is an understanding of the consequences of the product’s chemical composition and the end-of-life implications of the decisions made at the front end of the process. During the webinar, Ms. Sellers outlined barriers and enablers to the circular economy, including practical challenges like supply chain limitations and industry frameworks; Dr. Engler highlighted how the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) regulates discarded substances used as feedstocks by others and articles that may contain contaminants that could affect how an article is classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under TSCA; and Mr. Stanislaus reviewed policy issues, including waste management hierarchy, circular economy hierarchy, and other mechanisms that incentivize sustainability.
We encourage you to view the webinar, listen to the All Things Chemical® episodes “Trends in Product Sustainability and Circularity — A Conversation with Kate Sellers” and “How Can Battery Production Be Greener? — A Conversation with Mathy Stanislaus,” read ERM’s report Circularity: From Theory to Practice, and subscribe to B&C’s informative blogs and newsletters.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on February 4, 2022, the release of a “new and improved” Framework for the Assessment of Environmental Performance Standards and Ecolabels for Federal Purchasing under its Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) program, as well as a webpage highlighting ecolabel criteria that address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). EPA states that “[t]hese actions are a key step in implementing President Biden’s Executive Order on Catalyzing Clean Energy Industries and Jobs through Federal Sustainability and the accompanying Federal Sustainability Plan.
According to EPA, the EPP program helps federal government purchasers use private sector standards and ecolabels to identify and procure environmentally preferable products and services via the Recommendations of Specifications, Standards, and Ecolabels for Federal Purchasing. The updated Framework provides a streamlined, transparent, and consistent approach to assessing marketplace standards and ecolabels for environmental sustainability and for inclusion into the Recommendations.
EPA states that the updates to the Framework reflect lessons learned during the last five years of implementation and a desire to address a broader range of purchase categories with a more streamlined set of criteria. In addition, EPA updated the eligibility criteria for standards and ecolabels to support further their implementation across the federal government. EPA will use the Framework to update and expand the Recommendations to support the Biden Administration’s priorities and the Federal Sustainability Plan. The Recommendations currently include more than 40 private sector environmental performance standards and ecolabels in 25 purchase categories.
EPA will hold a webinar on March 2, 2022, at 2:00 p.m. (EST) to provide more information on the updated Framework and initial plans to expand the Recommendations. Stakeholders can register for the webinar and provide questions in advance.
EPA notes that the webpage highlighting how EPA’s Recommendations of Specifications, Standards, and Ecolabels address PFAS “is an important step toward providing federal purchasers with tools to avoid procurement of products containing PFAS.” The release of the webpage is concurrent with work to identify products and purchase categories that are known to be associated with key PFAS uses, as well as outreach to ecolabel and standard organizations regarding addressing PFAS.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on July 13, 2021, that Amazon’s Climate Pledge Friendly initiative now includes cleaning and other products certified by EPA’s Safer Choice program. According to EPA, Safer Choice is now one of 30 sustainability certifications highlighted under Amazon’s Climate Pledge Friendly initiative that helps customers shop for more than 75,000 products through the company’s online store. EPA notes that highlighting Safer Choice-certified products makes it easier for consumers to locate products that contain safer chemical ingredients without sacrificing quality or performance. Products identified as Climate Pledge Friendly are distinguished on Amazon’s website by an hourglass-with-wings symbol. The company also provides its customers with detailed web pages that include information on how and why products are certified as sustainable.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On February 23, 2021, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) announced that in association with other relevant Directorates-General (DG) of the European Commission (EC), DG Environment has opened a call for applications to select members for an expert group, the High-Level Roundtable on Implementation of the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability. According to EU-OSHA, the expert group’s mission “is to set the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability objectives and monitor its implementation in dialogue with the stakeholders concerned.” Specific tasks include contributing to identifying and addressing social, economic, and cultural barriers to the transition toward safe and sustainable chemicals. The expert group will act as a core group of ambassadors to facilitate discussions and promote this transition in the economy and society, developing a regular exchange of views, experiences, and good practices between the EC and stakeholders on the main objectives of the Strategy, namely:
- Innovating for safe and sustainable chemicals, including for materials and products;
- Addressing pressing environmental and health concerns;
- Simplifying and consolidating the legal framework;
- Providing a comprehensive knowledge base on chemicals; and
- Setting the example for global sound management of chemicals.
The expert group will consist of up to 32 members, with a maximum of:
- The Member State holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union;
- Ten third-sector organizations in the following areas: health protection, environmental protection, human rights, animal protection, consumer rights, and workers’ rights;
- Eight scientific organizations, academia, and research institutes providing a suitable balance between expertise in fundamental research, applied research, and training/education;
- Ten industries, including small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) or associations of enterprises, including an adequate representation of frontrunners in the production and use of safe and sustainable chemicals. Those should include chemical industries, downstream users (from different sectors), and retailers; and
- Three international organizations -- the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
Interested organizations are invited to submit their applications before March 18, 2021.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
On February 8, 2018, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a technology assessment report to congressional requestors entitled Chemical Innovation: Technologies to Make Processes and Products More Sustainable. GAO states it conducted this technology assessment “to explore, among other things, the opportunities, challenges, and federal roles in sustainable chemistry.” This report discusses (1) how stakeholders define and assess sustainable chemistry; (2) available or developing technologies to make chemical processes and products more sustainable; and (3) how the federal government, industry and others contribute to the development and use of such technologies. GAO states it is not making recommendations in this report, but is identifying strategic implications.
As part of its assessment, GAO interviewed stakeholders from government, industry, and academia; convened a meeting of experts on sustainable chemistry technologies and approaches; and surveyed a non-generalizable sample of chemical companies. GAO identified three categories of more sustainable chemistry technologies -- catalysts, solvents, and continuous processing -- that demonstrate both progress and potential:
- Catalysts reduce the energy input required for a chemical process and allow for more efficient use of materials. Stakeholders suggested future research be directed at developing less toxic or renewable catalysts, including those that are metal-free or those from earth-abundant metals such as iron.
- Solvents are used in many chemical processes but can create waste issues and be toxic. Alternatives include solvents from renewable, non-petroleum raw materials and solvents such as water that are less hazardous to human health and the environment, among other qualities.
- An alternative to traditional batch processing is continuous processing, in which materials react as they flow along a system of channels, pipes, or tubes. Compared to batch processing, continuous processing uses materials more efficiently, generates less waste, and has a smaller physical footprint.
GAO also identified, through its interaction with stakeholders, the following strategic implications of sustainable chemistry; and potential options to address these challenges and realize the full potential of these technologies:
- Breakthrough technologies in sustainable chemistry could transform how the industry thinks about performance, function, and synthesis. Sustainable chemistry creates opportunities to use a different conceptual framework that allows industry to create molecules with better performance.
- The establishment of an organized constituency, with the involvement of both industry and government, could help make sustainable chemistry a priority. An industry consortium, working in partnership with a key supporter at the federal level, could lead to an effective national initiative or strategy.
- A national initiative that considers sustainable chemistry in a systematic manner could be useful. Such an effort could encourage collaborations among industry, academia and the government, similar to other national technology Initiatives.
- There are opportunities for the federal government to address industry-wide challenges. Federal attention that facilitates development of standard tools for assessment and a robust definition could help clarify relevant participants in the field and improve information available for decision-makers at all levels
More information on the report and its strategic implications is available on GAO’s website.