By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) announced on July 21, 2022, publication of a new report entitled The Importance of Chemical Research to the U.S. Economy. The National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy (DOE), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the American Chemical Society (ACS) asked NASEM to convene a committee to consider strategies to sustain and enhance the economic activity driven by fundamental research investments in the chemical sciences. The chapter on “Sustainability for the Chemical Economy” includes the following general conclusions:
- Implementing a circular economy will require a paradigm shift in the way products are designed, manufactured, and used, and how the waste products are collected and reused. These new processes, and the use of clean energy and new feedstocks to enable these processes, will require novel chemistries, tools, and new fundamental research at every stage of design;
- Transitioning the chemical economy into a new paradigm around sustainable manufacturing, in which environmental sustainability is balanced with the need for products that will improve quality of life, enhance security, and increase U.S. competitiveness, will require substantial investment and innovation from industry, government, and their academic partners to create and implement new chemical processes and practices;
- As fundamental chemical research continues to evolve, the next generation of research directions will prioritize the future of environmental sustainability and new energy technologies. Keeping sustainability principles in mind during every stage of research and development will be critical to accomplishing this goal;
- Chemical research will have the greatest impact addressing energy and environmental sustainability if researchers and practitioners develop and use tools to quantify and mitigate environmental and human health impacts of new discoveries, are aware of the societal implications of their work, and if the research is driven by policies that identify specific environmental sustainability outcomes; and
- As the world moves deeper into its current energy transition, including the switch to electric vehicles, the implementation of clean energy alternatives, and the use of new feedstock sources, coupled with an increasing focus on circularity, decarbonization, computation, measurement, and automation will significantly alter the operations and processes of current industries, creating new opportunities and challenges that will benefit from fundamental chemistry and chemical engineering advances.
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
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
On April 29, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Research and Development (ORD) announced a virtual meeting of the Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) Chemical Safety for Sustainability and Health and Environmental Risk Assessment (CSS-HERA) Subcommittee. The purpose of the meeting will be to review the draft 2019-2022 Strategic Research Action Plan (StRAP) of the HERA research program. The videoconference meeting will be held over a period of two days on May 12, 2020, from 12:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. (EDT), and May 13, 2020, from 12:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. (EDT). The meeting is open to the public. Those interested in participating must register by May 8, 2020.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
This month, the American Cleaning Institute (ACI), a Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) member, published its 2019 Sustainability Report titled The Future Is Clean. In its 2019 report, ACI outlines its sustainability goals, which include increased transparency, the reduction of GHG emissions, and the move toward a circular global economy. As part of its activities to achieve such goals, ACI has worked on filling knowledge gaps, harnessing power in the power of convening, uniting for a cleaner world, and further developing its sustainability organizations. In its report, ACI also highlights its support for the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how its future goals can positively contribute to the SDGs.
Managed by B&C® Consortia Management (BCCM), BRAG is a consortium of international and well-respected member organizations and companies engaged in the development of biobased or renewable chemical products. BRAG members recognize the importance of advocacy, education, and communication. For further information, see the BRAG webpage on membership.
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On December 1, 2017, Neste, a member of BRAG, announced that its Ham Trick (Kinkkutemppu in Finnish) campaign was awarded two prestigious marketing and communications competitions. The Ham Trick, which is a campaign in which Neste collects and recycles ham waste fat from 100,000 households throughout Finland for manufacturing renewable diesel, won gold at the 2017 European Excellence Awards (EEA) and bronze in the PR category at the Eurobest awards. According to Kaisa Lipponen, Director of Corporate Communications at Neste, ”[t]he prizes are an excellent form of recognition and proof that the campaigns really interest people.” All proceeds from the campaign are donated to charity.
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On October 24, 2017, Neste, a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), announced that it was the only energy company to reach the Leadership-class ranking in three Climate Disclosure Project (CDP) programs. Neste received an A- ranking in the CDP Climate, CDP Forests, and CDP Water programs. CDP is a not-for-profit organization that manages a global disclosure system allowing companies, cities, states, and regions to measure and manage their environmental impact. The CDP Climate program focuses on corporate measures to combat climate risks and take advantage of low-carbon products and services. According to Pekka Tuovinen, Neste's Senior Advisor for sustainability, “[t]he more efficiently we operate, and the more we can reduce the climate emissions of our own supply chains, the greater will be the climate benefits of the products and solutions we offer.”
Neste is the only energy sector company to transparently disclose its forest footprint as part of the CDP program. The Leadership-class ranking demonstrates Neste’s commitment to preventing deforestation in its supply chain and requiring similar action from its raw material suppliers. Neste continues to work on improving the traceability of various kinds of processing residues used as raw materials beyond what is mandated by regulatory requirements.
For the first time, Neste participated in the CDP Water program, which requires companies to disclose the measures they implement for responsible water use and water risk management. According to Mr. Tuovinen, Neste has been carrying out water footprint calculations for its refineries and products since the 1990s.
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On July 14, 2017, the Royal Academy of Engineering (Academy) published a report on the sustainability pros and cons of biofuels, which was commissioned by the Department of Transport and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The report aims to provide advice on the future strategy for the development of biofuels in the United Kingdom (UK). In its statement announcing the report, the Academy stated that biofuels, particularly second generation biofuels from waste and byproducts, have a role to play in meeting the UK commitment to climate change mitigation. While such biofuels have the potential to be sustainable and make a real impact, the Academy warned that action is needed to manage risks, improve traceability, and avoid fraudulent practice.
The report calls on government to incentivize the development of second generation biofuels in the UK, specifically those derived from wastes and agricultural, forest, and sawmill residues, and to incentivize the use of marginal land, such as land unsuitable for food production or housing, for the production of biofuels. The Academy also recommended that the government properly regulate the biofuels sector with clear and consistent categorization of wastes and residues to help avoid unintended market distortions within the UK and internationally, and that other sustainability issues, such as competitiveness of biofuels with fossil fuels; food, energy and water security; employment provision; rural development; and human health impacts, be evaluated.
On September 25, 2015, EPA published Recommendations for Specifications, Environmental Performance Standards, and Ecolabels for Federal Procurement. The notice describes EPA's recommendations for federal agencies that are purchasing environmentally-friendly products. Section 3(i) of Executive Order 13693, Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade, directs federal agencies to adhere to certain environmental performance and sustainability standards when practicable. The new EPA recommendations list acceptable environmentally sustainable product brands and service providers that require a procurement preference, including EPA's voluntary program Energy Star®, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Certified Biobased label BioPreferred®, and EPA designated recycled content products, among others.