The Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG) helps members develop and bring to market their innovative biobased and renewable chemical products through insightful policy and regulatory advocacy. BRAG is managed by B&C® Consortia Management, L.L.C., an affiliate of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 15, 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the availability of over $27 million in funding for 12 projects supporting research and development (R&D) efforts toward advanced plastics recycling technologies and new recyclable plastics. These efforts are part of DOE’s Plastics Innovation Challenge, which aims to improve existing recycling processes that break plastics down into chemical building blocks that can be used to make new products. The 12 projects selected will address highly recyclable or biodegradable plastics, novel methods for deconstructing and upcycling existing plastics, and collaborations to tackle challenges in plastic waste.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On September 24, 2020, EPA announced the 2020 Safer Choice Partner of the Year award winners. EPA recognized 18 Safer Choice Partner of the Year award winners across ten states and the District of Columbia for achievement in the design, manufacture, selection, and use of products with safer chemicals that further outstanding or innovative source reduction. EPA states that the Safer Choice program helps consumers and purchasers for facilities, such as schools and office buildings, find products that perform and are safer for human health and the environment. According to EPA, the 2020 Partner of the Year award winners represent businesses, including woman-owned and small- and medium-sized; federal and local government; and associations. The following organizations from eight EPA regions are being awarded this year:

  • Apple -- Cupertino, California;
  • BASF Home Care and I&I Cleaning Solutions -- Florham Park, New Jersey;
  • Berkley Green -- Uniontown, Pennsylvania;
  • The Clorox Company -- Oakland, California;
  • Defunkify -- Eugene, Oregon;
  • DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences -- Palo Alto, California;
  • ECOS -- Cypress, California;
  • Grove Collaborative -- San Francisco, California;
  • Hazardous Waste Management Program -- King County, Washington;
  • Household & Commercial Products Association -- Washington, D.C.;
  • Jelmar, LLC -- Skokie, Illinois;
  • Lemi Shine -- Austin, Texas;
  • Naval Supply Systems Command Weapons System Support -- Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania;
  • PROSOCO -- Lawrence, Kansas;
  • PurposeBuilt Brands -- Gurnee, Illinois;
  • Sea Mar Community Health Centers -- Seattle, Washington;
  • Seventh Generation -- Burlington, Vermont; and
  • Wegmans Food Markets -- Rochester, New York.

More information is available on EPA’s website.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On September 21, 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Business-Cooperative Service announced that it is soliciting applications for funds available under the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program (the Program) to provide guaranteed loans to fund the construction, development, and retrofitting of commercial-scale biorefineries and of biobased product manufacturing facilities. Biorefineries applying must use eligible technology, and biobased product manufacturing facilities must use technologically new commercial-scale processing and manufacturing equipment to convert renewable chemicals and other biobased outputs of biorefineries into end-user products on a commercial scale.

USDA will accept applications during two separate cycles, which have application closing dates of 4:30 p.m. (EDT) October 1, 2020, and 4:30 p.m. (EDT) April 1, 2021. Applications and forms can be obtained from:

  • USDA, Rural Business-Cooperative Service, Program Processing Division, Attention: Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Room 5801-S, Washington, DC 20250-3225.

Of particular interest to USDA are applications that support recommendations made in the Rural Prosperity Task Force report to help improve life in rural America. Applicants are encouraged by USDA to provide measurable results in rural communities’ assistance to build sustainable and robust economies through: strategic investments in infrastructure, partnerships, and innovation. Key strategies outlined by USDA include:

  • Achieving e-connectivity for rural America;
  • Developing the rural economy;
  • Harnessing technological innovation;
  • Improving quality of life; and
  • Supporting a rural workforce.

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On August 17, 2020, DOE’s Reducing EMbodied-Energy and Decreasing Emissions (REMADE) Manufacturing Institute announced the availability of approximately $35 million in support of research and development (R&D) that will enable U.S. manufacturers to increase the recovery, recycling, reuse, and remanufacturing of plastics, metals, electronic waste, and fibers. This funding opportunity announcement (FOA) is part of DOE’s Plastics Innovation Challenge, a comprehensive program to accelerate innovations in energy-efficient plastics recycling technologies by supporting high-impact R&D for plastics.

DOE issued a request for proposal (RFP) under this FOA for projects in two areas: transformational R&D and traditional R&D. The full RFP can be accessed here. Letters of intent and project abstracts are due September 14, 2020.

The Deputy Secretary of Energy, Mark W. Menezes, commented on the FOA, stating: “The Trump Administration is committed to advancing innovative reuse and remanufacturing technologies, including advanced plastic recycling technologies, and the development of new plastics that are recyclable by design. Through the Plastics Innovation Challenge, and in partnership with REMADE, DOE is proud to take part in the development of new technologies that strengthen the U.S. manufacturing ecosystem.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson 

On June 30, 2020, EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report on its audit to determine whether the Safer Choice program effectively meets its goals and whether the program achieves quality standards through its product qualification, renewal, and required audit processes. OIG states that EPA’s Safer Choice program does not have formal goals included in the FY 2018-2022 EPA Strategic Plan, and the program has not reported results for FYs 2018-2019. The program does have internal, non-outcome-oriented goals, however, which it is generally achieving. The Safer Choice program’s goal is to add 200 Safer Choice products to the program and 25 chemicals to the Safer Chemical Ingredients List each year. According to OIG, in FY 2019, EPA added 265 products and 24 chemicals. OIG states that by not including formal goals for the Safer Choice program in EPA reports while continuing to receive Congressional funding and support, EPA limits not only accountability to Congress and the public, but also the extent that the program can use performance management information to make policy, budget, and management decisions. OIG notes that the Safer Choice program has general controls in place for the required Safer Choice audit process, and EPA reviews audit summaries and corrective actions provided by third-party profilers (TPP). EPA does not routinely review all supporting documentation, however, relying on TPPs to review and retain these documents. Additionally, the Safer Choice program does not have procedures in place to conduct any formal performance reviews of TPPs or oversight reviews of TPP partner audits. According to OIG, without periodic audit oversight, including full reviews of supporting documents and formal performance reviews of TPPs, EPA risks approving products that do not comply with the Safer Choice Standard. OIG recommends that the Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention develop and publish adequate Safer Choice program goals and performance measures, establish and implement procedures for formal audit oversight of TPPs, amend its memorandums of understanding with TPPs to require performance reviews conducted by EPA, and collect and document TPP audit supporting information.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

The American Chemical Society (ACS) has announced its 2021 call for nominations for the ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering (SC&E) Lectureship Awards. The awards will recognize the contributions of early career investigators from around the world who are doing exceptional research impacting sustainability, green chemistry, or green engineering. One award recipient will be chosen from three regions: the Americas, Europe/Middle East/Africa, and Asia/Pacific. Awardees will not only receive an award plaque but also an honorarium of $1,000 and travel and accommodation funding of up to $1,500 to attend and present at the 2021 Green Chemistry and Engineering (GC&E) Conference in Reston, VA, from June 14 through 16, 2021. Eligible nominees include:

  • Faculty members within ten years or less of their initial academic appointment;
  • Industrial and other non-academic scientists within ten years or less from their last professional training (terminal degree or postdoc); and
  • Individuals who have taken formal family leave which affects their eligibility under the ten-year timeline described above.

Self-nominations are allowed. The deadline for nominations is August 31, 2020. Selected winners will be announced in the fall of 2020.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson 

ACS has also recently announced a call for symposia topics for its 25th GC&E conference mentioned in the article above. The theme of the conference is “Sustainable Production to Advance the Circular Economy,” which directly links to the United Nations (U.N.) Sustainable Development Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production. The proposal submission deadline is October 9, 2020, and notifications of acceptance will be announced by November 20, 2020.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On July 1, 2020, DOE’s EERE announced a request for proposals (RFP) for R&D projects that support DOE’s H2@Scale vision for large-scale, affordable hydrogen production, storage, distribution, and utilization across various sectors. H2@Scale is an initiative focused on exploring the potential for wide-scale hydrogen production and utilization in the United States to enable resilience and sustainability of the power generation and transmission sectors. The initiative’s goal is to align diverse multibillion-dollar domestic industries with domestic competitiveness and job creation. The RFP comes from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and DOE’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office (HFTO). Two areas of R&D are of particular interest to NREL and HFTO:

  • Advancing hydrogen fuel technologies for medium- and heavy-duty fuel cell vehicles; and
  • Addressing technical barriers to hydrogen blending in natural gas.

HFTO will fund NREL services, staff time, and facilities necessary to support each selected project. Selected projects must include one or more National Laboratories and must include partners from one or more of the following: universities, industries, non-profits, associations, institutes, codes and standards organizations, or other relevant stakeholders. Proposals must be submitted on or prior to July 31, 2020, at 7:00 p.m. (EDT).


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On June 26, 2020, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), a Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) member, announced the winners of its 2020 Start-Up Stadium competition. The competition had 30 finalists that were evaluated during BIO Digital in June, by expert judges with backgrounds in investment, entrepreneurship, start-ups, economic development, capital formation, and academia. Five winners were chosen based on their commercially viable cutting-edge technologies and therapeutic solutions. Competition winners will receive:

  • A one-year membership in BIO;
  • Four hours of complimentary legal services;
  • One-hour advisory discussion with two venture capital firms; and
  • A “fast-track” accelerator application and nomination into the final selection phase for up to a $10,000 sequencing grant.

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 

On June 16, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the winners of the 2020 Green Chemistry Challenge Awards.  EPA states that this year’s winners “have developed new and innovative green chemistry technologies that turn potential environmental challenges into business opportunities, spurring innovation and economic development.”  The 2020 winners and their innovative technologies are:

  • Genomatica, San Diego, California, for creating Brontide™, a new brand of 1,3-butylene glycol, commonly used in cosmetics for moisture retention and as a carrier for plant extracts.  Butylene glycol is traditionally produced from fossil fuels.  Brontide™ is produced by fermenting E. coli using renewable sugars in a one-step production process, however.  This method reduces greenhouse gas emissions and avoids the use of hazardous chemicals in the production process.
     
  • Merck, Rahway, New Jersey, for improving the process used to produce certain antiviral drugs used for the treatment of diseases including hepatitis C and HIV.  According to EPA, the new process improved manufacturing efficiency and sustainability of one important antiviral by more than 85 percent.  This method reduces waste and hazards associated with the existing process and results in substantial cost savings.
  • Johns Manville, Littleton, Colorado, for developing a biobased, formaldehyde-free thermoset binder for fiberglass reinforcement applications.  Thermoset binders are used to bind glass fibers of fiberglass mats used in carpet tile backing.  EPA states that this technology eliminates the use of hazardous chemicals, reduces water and energy use, and produces a product with a longer shelf life.
     
  • Professor Steven Skerlos, University of Michigan and Fusion Coolant Systems, for creating Pure-Cut™, an alternative to traditional metalworking fluids that uses high-pressure carbon dioxide instead of oil-based lubricants.  According to EPA, Pure-Cut™ can improve performance and machining tool life span compared to traditional metalworking fluids, while greatly reducing hazards to the environment and worker health.
     
  • Vestaron, Kalamazoo, Michigan, for producing a new biopesticide called Spear®.  This pesticide is based on a naturally occurring component inspired by spider venom that can effectively control target pests while showing no adverse effects on people, the environment, and non-target wildlife, such as fish and bees.  EPA notes that Spear® should provide growers with a new pest management tool that also lessens environmental impacts.

EPA plans to recognize the winners at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., later this year.  EPA and the American Chemical Society co-sponsor the awards.  An independent panel of technical experts convened by the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute formally judged the 2020 submissions and made recommendations to EPA for the 2020 winners.


 
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