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.

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On June 24, 2021, a “unique and broad group” of chemical manufacturers, brand owners, environmental non-governmental organizations (NGO), states, and municipalities sent a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies to express their “strong support” for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Safer Choice Program and to encourage that the program be funded fully. The letter asks that the following language be included in the report:

The Committee supports the Safer Choice program and directs that the program be funded and operated at least at levels consistent with Fiscal Year 2014, adjusted for inflation.

According to the letter, in the last quarter of 2020, EPA reorganized the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP), dissolving the Safer Choice branch and reassigning most staff to the areas of OCSPP. The letter states that “[a]s a result, the program is now severely under-resourced with approximately four full-time staff.” The Biden-Harris EPA has taken steps to restore the program, but EPA still faces resource constraints.

The letter describes how companies across the value chain use the Safer Choice brand to advance their individual safer chemical initiatives. Chemical manufacturers invested in developing safer chemicals now listed on the Safer Choice’s Safer Chemicals Ingredients List (SCIL). Brand owners and product manufacturers have reformulated products using the SCIL to obtain Safer Choice certification. Major retailers specify the Safer Choice label as a verifiable way to meet corporate goals laid out in public-facing chemicals policies.

According to the letter, the Safer Choice Program also provides value to entities outside of the supply chain. States and municipalities rely on the Safer Choice Program “because it is the only third-party program that requires all ingredients to be screened for hazards instead of simply using a restricted substances list.” NGOs and consumers “find significant value in an authoritative government program that can be trusted to vet safer chemicals and products.”


 

By  Lynn L. Bergeson

On April 13, 2021, Montana State University (MSU) researchers from its Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering published an article entitled “Biomineralization of Plastic Waste to Improve the Strength of Plastic-Reinforced Cement Mortar.” The study evaluates calcium carbonate biomineralization techniques applied to coat plastic waste and improve the compressive strength of plastic-reinforced mortar (PRM), a type of plastic-reinforced cementitious material (PRC). In an effort to reduce the environmental impact of plastic pollution, the study tested two types of biomineralization treatments: enzymatically induced calcium carbonate precipitation (EICP) and microbially induced calcium carbonate precipitation (MICP). While MICP treatment of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) resulted in PRMs with compressive strength similar to that of plastic-free mortar, EICP-treated PET resulted in weaker strength than that of MICP. MICP treatment, however, affects differently the compressive strength of PRM in various types of plastics. According to the researchers, further work is needed to understand the impact of MICP treatment on interfacial strength. The authors hope that greater knowledge of this mechanism will lead to the establishment of biomineralized PRC as a high-volume method to reuse plastic waste.


 

By  Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
 
On May 25, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the availability of up to $14.5 million in investments for research and development (R&D) to reduce waste and energy use related to the recycling of single-use plastics. As the largest subset of plastics found in landfills, single-use plastics, including plastic bags, wraps, and films, are also among the most challenging to recycle. According to DOE, plastic production uses the same amount of oil around the world as the aviation industry. Only ten percent of plastics, however, are currently recycled, and most of those plastics are downcycled, or repurposed into low-value products. DOE Secretary of Energy, Jennifer M. Granholm, hopes that these funds supporting plastic recycling innovation will be a “triple win by cutting plastic waste we see in our everyday lives, reducing industrial energy use and resulting emissions, and creating clean manufacturing jobs for American workers.” This is an effort by DOE to decarbonize the plastics industry and increase investments in recycling processes. There are many obstacles to plastic film recycling, including collection, sorting, contamination, and lack of economically viable methods for recycling and upcycling. Therefore, DOE will support various projects to develop viable solutions for converting plastic films to more valuable materials and designing plastics that are more recyclable and biodegradable.

In addition to a concept paper and full application, the application process requires a description of how diversity, equity, and inclusion objectives will be incorporated into the project. Submission deadlines are as follows:

  • Concept Paper – Deadline: June 28, 2021, by 5:00 p.m. (EDT);
  • Full Application – Deadline: August 16, 2021, by 5:00 p.m. (EDT); and
  • View Full Application Reviewer Comments – Between September 23, 2021, and September 28, 2021, by 5:00 p.m. (EDT).

 

The American Chemical Society (ACS) presents the 25th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference, with sessions spanning the breadth and depth of green and sustainable chemistry and engineering. This year's conference theme is Sustainable Production to Advance the Circular Economy and Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., Director of Chemistry, Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) will present “Getting to market: Planning for regulatory approval” during the Green and Sustainable Chemistry in Manufacturing for More Sustainable Household and Personal Care Products session.


 

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 and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On March 25, 2021, researchers from the University of Maryland Department (UMD) of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) published, in Nature Sustainability, a study titled “A strong, biodegradable and recyclable lignocellulosic bioplastic.”  The study outlines UMD MSE’s new in situ lignin regeneration strategy that synthesizes a high-performance bioplastic from lignocellulosic resources such as wood.  According to the published article, renewable and biodegradable materials derived from biomass often exhibit mechanical performance and wet stability that are insufficient for practical applications.  Given these circumstances, the newly developed method for bioplastic production improves efficiency and reduces environmental impacts because it involves only green and recyclable chemicals.  The study can be accessed here, detailing the process in which porous matrices of natural wood are deconstructed to form the lignocellulosic bioplastic.


 

From June 14 through 18, 2021, the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute (ACS GCI) will host its annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference. Fully virtual this year, the conference will include live sessions and poster presentations focused on green and sustainable chemistry and engineering under the 2021 theme of Sustainable Production to Advance the Circular Economy. Registration is now open via this link.


 

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

On January 19, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released its Plastics Innovation Challenge Draft Roadmap (Draft Roadmap) alongside a Request for Information (RFI) seeking stakeholder input on the draft document. The Plastics Innovation Challenge is a DOE program focused on accelerating innovations in energy-efficient plastic recycling technologies. The aim of the Plastics Innovation Challenge is to make domestic processing of plastic waste energy efficient and economically viable, develop new and improved plastic materials lacking the same end-of-life concerns as incumbent materials, and to reduce plastic waste accumulation. Based on these aims, the Plastics Innovation Challenge has outlined four strategic goals within its scope:

  • Deconstruction: Develop biological and chemical methods for deconstructing plastic wastes into useful chemicals;
     
  • Upcycling: Develop technologies to upcycle waste chemical streams into higher value products;
     
  • Recycle by Design: Design new, renewable plastics and bioplastics that are easily upcycled and can be manufactured domestically at scale; and
     
  • Scale and Deployment: Support an energy and material-efficient domestic plastics supply chain.

The Draft Roadmap, therefore, identifies key research needs and opportunities for DOE-sponsored research and development (R&D). It also identifies challenges and opportunities across thermal, chemical, biological, and physical recycling and upcycling methods, as well as material design strategies for recyclability. According to DOE, the Draft Roadmap additionally:

  • Provides an overview of the plastic waste problem;
     
  • Identifies the initiative’s 2030 vision, mission, strategic goals, and objectives;
     
  • Details challenges and opportunities identified by previous DOE activities;
     
  • Lays out key research directions;
     
  • Delivers an outline of current DOE activities, capabilities and coordination; and
     
  • Describes targets for each research area.

The Draft Roadmap aims to guide DOE efforts to meet the Plastics Innovation Challenge goals. The purpose of DOE’s RFI on the Draft Roadmap, therefore, is to solicit feedback from stakeholders to ensure the road toward the Plastics Innovation Challenge 2030 goals is clear and well positioned. Responses to the RFI are due to DOE by March 1, 2021.


 

By  Lynn L. Bergeson 

EPA has posted a Compliance Advisory entitled “Applicability of the Toxic Substances Control Act to Chemicals made from Petroleum and Renewable Sources Used as Fuels and Fuel Additives and Distillates.” The Compliance Advisory states that EPA is reaffirming that chemical substances used as fuels, fuel additives, and distillates made from either petroleum or renewable sources are subject to TSCA. Anyone who plans to manufacture (including import) a chemical made from petroleum or renewable sources must comply with the statutory and regulatory new chemical requirements under TSCA Section 5. According to the Compliance Advisory, EPA has received stakeholder inquiries “as to whether fuel and fuel additives made from renewable sources (such as renewable naphtha) are subject to the TSCA new chemicals requirements under section 5.” EPA states that it is issuing the Compliance Advisory “to affirm that fuel and fuel additives either made from petroleum or renewable sources are subject to TSCA and have been subject to its requirements since 1976.”

According to the Compliance Advisory, there are about 142 “naphthas” and 178 “distillates” (that compositionally can qualify as naphthas) currently on the TSCA Inventory, and they are considered Unknown, Variable composition, Complex, or Biological (UVCB) substances. Any substance that is not on the TSCA Inventory is a new chemical under TSCA Section 5(a)(1)(A). Prior to manufacture (including import) of a new chemical for commercial use, a premanufacture notice (PMN) must be filed with EPA under TSCA Section 5. The Compliance Advisory includes several questions and answers (Q&A), including:

Can you manufacture or import a chemical substance made from a renewable source if it is not listed on the TSCA Inventory?

No. Anyone who intends to manufacture (including import) a new chemical substance that is subject to TSCA for a non-exempt commercial purpose is required to submit a PMN at least 90 days prior to the manufacture of the chemical. Manufacturers (importers) are in violation of TSCA if they fail to comply or are late in complying with TSCA notice requirements. If you are required to submit a PMN, failure to do so is a violation of TSCA Section 15 and you may be subject to penalties. PMN submissions must include all available data, pursuant to 40 CFR 720.45 and 720.50. TSCA requires EPA to review the notice and make a determination; and, if appropriate, regulate the proposed activity.

EPA’s “compliance advisory” is disappointing. It signals this EPA is disinclined to promote renewable petroleum cuts and essentially (and emphatically) reaffirms what we believe to be EPA’s inflexible and unimaginative stance on “source” being determinative in petroleum cut UVCBs. This position, as we have noted in a variety of regulatory contexts, is a substantial disincentive to commercializing renewable petroleum cuts. EPA’s view is especially problematic when a refinery might wish to use a combination of petroleum and renewable feedstocks to make a single naphtha (or other distillate) cut.

For example, to avail itself of the equivalence determination, a company would have to submit a PMN for the renewable equivalent of a petroleum cut, sign the almost certain resultant consent order (EPA will undoubtedly identify aquatic toxicity concerns and may also identify health concerns), commence manufacture, file a Notice of Commencement of Manufacture or Import (NOC), and then request an equivalency determination. If EPA denies the equivalency determination, any downstream processor or user will have to either segregate the renewable products from the petroleum products so that the downstream entity can maintain records of compliance with the consent order or treat both the renewable and petroleum products as being subject to the order. Neither option is commercially feasible or sustainable.

This sequence of events illustrates why commercial entities are disinclined to avail themselves of renewable sources in the distillate space. EPA’s compliance advisory is an unexpected and, to many, unwanted parting gift from the Trump Administration. The Biden Administration may wish to revisit the wisdom and prudence of this inflexible, antiquated, and inequitable view.


 

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.


 
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