Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) is a Washington, D.C., law firm providing biobased and renewable chemical product stakeholders unparalleled experience, judgment, and excellence in bringing innovative products to market.

Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) is pleased to provide our Forecast 2022 to readers of the Biobased and Renewable Products Update, offering our best informed judgment as to the trends and key developments we expect to see in the new year. Global and national policy reforms continue to focus increasingly on a circular economy as a critical part of addressing climate change. In 2022, industry stakeholders can expect the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to announce funding opportunities for efforts focused on the development of novel biobased chemistry. Stakeholders in the biobased chemical industry should also plan to monitor activities on Capitol Hill, including the Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act, passed in July 2020 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year (FY) 2021. More details on this, and expected regulatory changes of all varieties, are available in our Forecast for U.S. Federal and International Chemical Regulatory Policy 2022.

WEBINAR
What to Expect in Chemicals in 2022
January 26, 2022, 12:00 p.m. EST
Register Now

B&C will be presenting a complimentary webinar, “What to Expect in Chemicals in 2022,” focusing on themes outlined in the forecast. Join Lynn L. Bergeson, Managing Partner; Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., Director of Chemistry; and James V. Aidala, Senior Government Affairs Consultant, for this informative and forward-looking webinar.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
 
On December 7, 2021, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published a study titled: “A Chemicals Perspective on Designing with Sustainable Plastics: Goals, Considerations and Trade-offs.” The study builds on considerations from a similar OECD report from 2018 by analyzing four sector-specific case studies on insulation, flooring, biscuit wrappers, and detergent bottles. To produce this study, OECD conducted literature reviews, interviews, and workshops with chemists and suppliers, examining the chemicals perspective on the material selection process informing designers and engineering in finding sustainable plastics for their products. OECD concludes the study by identifying limitations and recommending the following next steps:

  • Identify and address knowledge gaps within scientific insights on chemicals;
  • Continue to promote chemical innovation for improved outcomes for products and their operating environment;
  • Integrate sustainability design goals earlier in the design process;
  • Broaden the scope to include other materials families; and
  • Involve more stakeholders.

The full study and a webinar hosted by OECD on December 7, 2021, are available here.


 

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

On October 28, 2021, the Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced that several of its scientists discovered in a study that bioplastics can be chemically recycled into nitrogen-rich fertilizers in an environmentally friendly manner. Assistant Professor Daisuke Aoki and Professor Hideyuki Otsuka led the study hoping to address plastic pollution, petrochemical resource depletion, and world hunger. In their novel method, plastics produced from biomass (bioplastics) are chemically recycled back into fertilizers.
 
The study was published in Green Chemistry, a Royal Society of Chemistry journal focused on innovation research on sustainable and eco-friendly technologies.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson 

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change held a hearing on October 27, 2021, on “TSCA and Public Health: Fulfilling the Promise of the Lautenberg Act.” The October 25, 2021, briefing memorandum notes that the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (the Lautenberg Act) comprehensively amended TSCA, “including key reforms to increase EPA’s authority to mandate testing, require EPA to make affirmative decisions about the safety of new chemicals, and require the evaluation, and where merited, the regulation of existing chemicals.”
 
Dr. Michal Ilana Freedhoff, Assistant Administrator for OCSPP, was the Subcommittee’s only witness. In her testimony, she emphasized several critical building blocks of a sustainable TSCA program:

  • Resources: EPA needs meaningful new funding to reflect its new responsibilities under the Lautenberg Act. Freedhoff estimates that EPA has less than 50 percent of the resources necessary to review and approve new chemicals in the way Congress intended;
  • Strong science and scientific integrity; and
  • Policies and processes that will lead to legally and scientifically defensible and protective chemical safety actions. The previous Administration issued ten final risk evaluations. While some EPA policy changes made under the Biden Administration will require revision to some of these risk evaluations, EPA’s intent is to do only what is necessary. These policy changes include reversing the assumption that all workers always use personal protective equipment (PPE) and reversing the decision to exclude exposures to chemicals from air, drinking water, and disposal.

Freedhoff stated that EPA’s goal is to move to rulemaking as soon as possible. She expects that the proposed rule for asbestos will be the very first of the first ten chemicals assessed under the Lautenberg Act that will be sent to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for interagency review later in 2021. According to Freedhoff, the scope for the next part of the asbestos risk evaluation that addresses uses and fiber types that the previous Administration excluded will be ready “roughly” by the end of 2021. EPA expects to complete that risk evaluation by the end of 2024.
 
Freedhoff described EPA’s work to improve implementation of the new chemicals program. Freedhoff noted that EPA has made policy changes intended to protect workers and ensure that the scope of new chemical reviews aligns with Congress’s expectations. EPA has also revised the process for reviewing and issuing final human health risk assessments and established a new internal advisory body to review and consider scientific policy issues related to new chemical submissions. Freedhoff stressed that she does not believe ensuring that new chemicals be used safely and reviewing new chemicals quickly are mutually exclusive. EPA can do both, and the Lautenberg Act states that EPA should. When questioned about the delay in review of premanufacture notices (PMN) within the allotted 90 days, Freedhoff stated that EPA is operating under the typical workload, as has been the case the past few years. According to Freedhoff, when EPA takes more than 90 days, it is typically because the companies have asked EPA to do so. Sometimes that is because the companies are providing new information late in the process and sometimes, especially in the past few years, it is because they disagree with EPA’s risk assessment and want to change EPA’s mind. Freedhoff reiterated her earlier point about needing resources, noting that EPA is operating with less than 50 percent of the resources that it thinks it needs to operate the NCD in the way that Congress intended.
 
Freedhoff stated that in April 2021, she and the scientific integrity official found a way to initiate a review of a small number of human health assessments about which concerns were raised, and she shared the information with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). She learned that sometimes very serious questions were raised about how hazardous a new chemical is found to be, even when there is agreement that hazard exists. She heard that changes to the scientific basis of the assessments is not always well explained or understandable. Freedhoff stated that there are legitimate questions about the process and science associated with reviewing new chemicals and that she takes these concerns seriously. She personally let the OIG know that OCSPP will cooperate fully with its investigation; launched a series of scientific integrity trainings; put into place new ways for scientists who believe that there is disagreement can elevate their concerns and obtain a review; and hired someone to come in and talk about ways to improve recordkeeping practices.
 
Freedhoff highlighted one of OCSPP’s contributions to the Biden Administration’s multi-agency plan to address PFAS contamination, the national PFAS testing strategy. According to Freedhoff, most of the thousands of PFAS have no toxicity data, and if EPA continues to work on one PFAS at a time, EPA will not get through them. Freedhoff stated that the first TSCA test orders to manufacturers for about 20 different PFAS in 20 different categories will go out in a matter of months. EPA expects to extrapolate the information that it receives to more than 2,000 other PFAS in similar categories. EPA is currently determining what tests to require. The timeline for industry to conduct the testing and provide results to EPA depends on what tests are required.
 
After Freedhoff completed her opening statement, Committee and Subcommittee members had an opportunity to ask questions. During the question and answer period, Freedhoff agreed that the Lautenberg Act requires that EPA make health and safety studies public, such as those for Colour Index (C.I.) Pigment Violet 29 (PV29) that were initially declared confidential, and EPA is going to do that. EPA has updated the confidential status of almost 400 chemicals and will include those chemicals on the next update of the TSCA Inventory. EPA is also working to provide more information about new chemicals and make it more public as quickly as possible.
 
To address risks to communities that live near industrial facilities, EPA is creating a fenceline screening methodology to ensure that communities are not inadvertently left out of the risk evaluation process. According to Freedhoff, EPA will release the methodology for public comment and peer review in fall 2021. EPA also expects to release a new draft systematic review methodology for both public comment and peer review later in 2021.
 
When asked about the final rules for five persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemicals -- 2,4,6-tris(tert-butyl)phenol (2,4,6-TTBP), decabromodiphenyl ether (decaBDE), hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD), pentachlorothiophenol (PCTP), and phenol, isopropylated phosphate (3:1) (PIP (3:1)) -- that have caused concerns about the supply chain, Freedhoff noted that these final rules were issued under the Trump Administration. She stated that she believes that the former Administration made every effort to reach out to industry, but industry realized what the implications would be on their supply chains only after the final rules were issued. The Biden EPA immediately took action to extend the PIP (3:1) compliance date and is still working to address industry’s concerns and will continue to do so.
 
Under the previous Administration, EPA completed the risk evaluation of methylene chloride and banned it in all paint removers for consumer use. According to Freedhoff, EPA is now considering its commercial uses and working to ensure that the rule will not leave fenceline communities with additional exposures. EPA expects to send a proposed rule addressing these uses for interagency review sometime in 2022.
 
There were not many surprises in the hearing. Freedhoff largely reiterated statements EPA has made in the past, rather than providing new information or additional clarity. Criticism from members followed fairly well-trodden lines of critique that have been raised since 2016, and Freedhoff responded predictably, asserting that EPA would follow the law and the science and urging repeatedly that EPA needs additional resources to fulfill its mission.
 
For critics on both sides, there was little assurance that OCSPP will take action timely on the many issues that have been delayed, including the Section 6 risk evaluations, new chemicals notices, and PBT regulations.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson 

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) posted a WatchBlog item entitled “Can Chemical Recycling Reduce Plastic Pollution?” on October 5, 2021. The item looks at GAO’s September 2021 Science & Tech Spotlight: Advanced Plastic Recycling. According to GAO, chemical recycling could reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills, potentially reducing the release of chemicals into the environment. Chemical recycling can produce high-quality raw materials, decreasing the demand for fossil fuels and other natural resources. GAO states that the obstacles to using chemical recycling include process and technology challenges, high startup and operating costs, and limited incentives for recycling innovation and investment. GAO notes that new plastics produced from fossil fuels are typically cheaper to produce than recycled plastics, in part due to transportation costs and limited recycling infrastructure, making recycled plastics less marketable. Key questions for policymakers include:

What steps could the federal government, states, and other stakeholders take to further incentivize chemical recycling rather than disposal? What are the potential benefits and challenges of these approaches?

What steps could policymakers take to support a transition toward a circular economy -- one in which products are not disposed of but are recycled for reuse including innovation -- and investment in manufacturing and recycling capacity?

What might policymakers do to promote advanced recycling technologies while also reducing the hazards associated with existing plastic production and recycling methods?

One issue that GAO fails to consider is the regulatory status of depolymerized plastic. Furthermore, making a polymer by depolymerizing plastic is, according to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) nomenclature rules, different than the virgin polymer. These nomenclature complications will likely be a barrier to the commercialization of the closed-loop chemical recycling of plastics.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson
 
On June 1, 2021, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) announced that its scientists have developed a novel solvent that results in a more efficient process to recover valuable materials from used lithium-ion batteries. According to ORNL’s press release, this new method supports a stable domestic supply chain for new batteries and keeps old ones out of landfills.
 
Currently, the recycling process of batteries involves smelting, which is an expensive, energy-intensive process that releases toxic gas. This new process developed by ORNL, however, recovers cathode materials and aluminum foils from lithium-ion batteries using a less hazardous solvent. It is a wet chemical process that uses triethyl phosphate to dissolve the binder material that adheres cathodes to metal foil. This process results in efficient recovery of cobalt-based cathodes and graphite, among other valuable materials, such as copper foils, that can be reused in new batteries. ORNL’s Ilias Belharouak stated that, in addition to repurposing materials, the new process reduces toxic exposure for workers. The full publication of ORNL’s study is available here.


 

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

On May 18, 2021, the European Parliament (EP) issued a press release announcing the Just Transition Fund (JTF) to assist European Union (EU) countries to address climate neutrality goals. The Just Transition Fund is composed of €7.5 billion from the European Commission’s (EC) long-term EU budget under the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and €10 billion from the EU recovery plan, NextGenerationEU. According to the press release, eligible projects must focus on economic diversification, reconversion, or job creation, or they must contribute to the transition into a sustainable and circular European economy. JTF will finance:

  • Job seeking assistance, upskilling, and reskilling to help workers as Europe shifts to a climate-neutral economy;
  • Micro-enterprises;
  • Business incubators;
  • Universities;
  • Public research institutions; and
  • Investments in new energy technologies, energy efficiency, and sustainable local mobility.

A “Green Rewarding Mechanism” could be introduced to the JTF for distribution of additional funding to member states if the EP decides to increase the fund’s resources after December 31, 2024. The goal is for the €7.5 billion JTF funds to generate between €30 and €50 billion from investments. Member states that succeed in reducing industrial greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will receive additional funding.
 
Access to JTF for member states is conditional upon adoption of national-level commitments to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. Before adoption of such commitments, member states will be entitled to only 50 percent of their national allocations. The portion of the investments provided by EC is set at a maximum of 85 percent for less developed regions, 70 percent for transitional regions, and 50 percent for more developed regions.
 
JTF is part of the European Green Deal Just Transition Mechanism (JTM) initiative, which provides targeted support to regions and sectors in the EU that are most affected by the transition into a green economy. JTM aims to help EU member countries by also:

  • Supporting the transition to low-carbon and climate-resilient activities;
  • Creating new jobs in the green economy;
  • Investing in public and sustainable transport;
  • Providing technical assistance;
  • Investing in renewable energy sources;
  • Improving digital connectivity;
  • Providing affordable loans to local public authorities; and
  • Improving energy infrastructure, district heating, and transportation networks.

In support of JTM, Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice President of EC stated that “[w]e must show solidarity with the most affected regions in Europe, such as the coal mining regions and others, to make sure the [European] Green Deal gets everyone’s full support and has a chance to become a reality.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On May 12, 2021, from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. (EDT), the European Commission (EC) Helpdesk will host a webinar on appropriate Intellectual Property (IP) rights for biotechnology inventions.  The 60-minute webinar will provide an overview of:

  • Relevant IP rights;
  • Product development IP context;
  • IP specifics in biotechnology;
  • IP portfolio development; and
  • IP portfolio management.

The webinar is free of charge, but registration is required.  Additional information is available here.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On April 28, 2021, DOE issued a $22.5 million request for proposals (RFP) for projects that support recovery, recycling, and reuse of material waste generated by the manufacturing sector.  DOE EERE stated that “[p]rojects funded through this solicitation will develop technologies that reduce embodied energy and carbon emissions associated with the production and consumption of metals, polymers, fibers, and electronic waste, as well as identify training activities that will expand the American manufacturing workforce.”  The projects will be managed by DOE’s Reducing Embodied-Energy and Decreasing Emissions (REMADE) Institute, which is funded by DOE EERE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office.


 

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

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) researchers are leading analyses of recycling, repairing, and reusing solar photovoltaic (PV) installations in support of NREL’s mission to incentivize a circular economy for energy materials.  According to NREL, the increase in the installation of PV systems is leading to environmental and supply chain concerns because the technology relies on imports and mining of raw materials to meet domestic demands.  NREL predicts that, by 2030, decommissioned PV modules could total a million tons of waste in the United States or one percent of the world’s e-waste.  Concerned by these facts, NREL researchers have been leading ongoing analyses of the end-of-life management of PV modules in the current market.  Taylor Curtis, an NREL sustainability analyst, highlights that “[r]epair, reuse, or recovery of this equipment would reduce negative environmental impacts, reduce resource constraints, and stimulate U.S. economic growth.”
 
According to NREL research, if best practices are applied and regulatory barriers removed in the future, the U.S. industry for recovered PV materials could total $60 million by 2030 or $2 billion by 2050, from modules alone.  A summary of NREL’s recommended best practices for retiring PV systems is detailed in this report, and a detailed analysis of current federal and state regulatory barriers to PV module recycling and recovery is available in NREL’s March 2021 report titled “Solar Photovoltaic Module Recycling: A Survey of U.S. Policies and Initiatives.”


 
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