Posts Tagged ‘green chemistry’

The new NSF/ANSI 355 – 2011 standard  on Greener Chemicals and Processes Information has been released after a lot of work by a passionate joint committee (including yours truly) from industry, ACS Green Chemistry Institute (the sponsor), EPA, academia, NGOs and NSF.

This is an attempt to provide a vehicle for standardized information for business to business communication about factors that describe “greenness” presented in a way to allow each customer to weight those factors that mean the most for its business.  It’s meant to stimulate dialog and greener choices, rather than to generate a “scorecard” per se.

We also think this goes beyond cataloging hazardous properties of chemicals to describe important aspects of the chemical manufacturing process.  This is focused on the first manufacturing stage of the life cycle and is meant to be used by chemical manufacturers and their customers.  Working up the full life cycle will be the next steps.

EHS Strategies, Inc. can help you explore the use of the standard, but does not provide 3rd party certification.


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The American Chemistry Society has launched it’s new website on sustainability: www.acs.org/sustainability.

Yours truly led development of the site as a portal for those interested in chemistry and sustainability and, in particular, to learn what the American Chemical Society and its members are doing and can do to understand and create chemical solutions sustainably.

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EPA has just posted its draft Alternatives Assessment Methodology on how it will compare the hazards of alternate chemicals in deciding whether or not to designate a product as “Designed for the Environment.”    DfE is geared to identifying alternatives that work and are available and are greener than the current chemicals that are being used.  The methodology guide offers how to classify hazards as very high-high-moderate-low and has many useful resources for those of you trying to decide which alternatives are “safer.”  EPA will be using alternatives analysis when looking at safer alternatives for the Chemical Action Plan priority chemicals.

The related GCI-NSF proposed standard “Greener Chemical and Process Information” identifies the same kinds of hazard elements, in addition to other process-related information, that a customer would use to compare alternate sources for the more “green” or safer product.  See blog

Product stewards can use this as a tool when designing or redesigning their own products.  I’m less concerned at where EPA is drawing the lines between very high-high-moderate-low as the importance of comparing alternatives and going with those that work the best for your business and have the best safety profile.

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I spoke at the Minnesota Green Chemistry Forum’s “Adding Value Through Green Chemistry” conference January 7, 2011, on the topic of environmental marketing claims opportunities and challenges for companies.

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I’m on the joint committee that developed the following proposed standard on “greener” chemicals and processes.  Our intent is to have a standard that can be used by customers of chemical manufacturers to decide who has the “greener” chemical and process.  This is an information standard and does not weight any of the metrics per se, so no total “green score.”  That would be left up to customers. Your comments would be greatly appreciated!

The American Chemical Society, Green Chemistry Institute and NSF International would like to announce the ANSI public comment period has opened for the Greener Chemicals and Processes Information Standard, NSF/GCI 355.  You may view the draft and submit your comments via the link below:

(Please only comment on the most recent version of the draft)

Consider the standard both as a chemical manufacturer who would claim conformance and as a customer who would look at the information on raw materials. (We started with the chemical transformation life cycle stage and hope to extend the concept to upstream extraction and downstream formulation and fabrication later.)  We ask that you provide feedback specifically on the following items:

  1. Chemical Characteristics, section 5 – which are unlikely to have data for most chemicals?
  2. Process Mass Efficiency (PME) calculation – ease of use
  3. Energy derivation and calculation
  4. Inclusion of bio-based input
  5. Inclusion or exclusion of Social Responsibility section 7
  6. Additional guidance you would like to see provided – calculations, examples, reporting format, algorithms for scoring, etc.
  7. Would you use it? If not, why?

The public comment period closes November 16, 2010.

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I am participating in the standard development process for “Greener Chemical Products and Processes, ”  sponsored by the Green Chemistry Institute of the American Chemistry Society and NSF.  Here’s an article in the May 10, 2010, C&EN summarizing the efforts : “Common Ground for Going Green.”  There’s a spectrum of opinions and we each have our own vision of what the standard should be used for.  My thoughts:
Our starting point is to deal with the life cycle stage of chemical manufacture – transforming chemicals to make another chemical.  Information generated under the standard would be handed to the next step in the life cycle –  other manufacturers, users or formulators – and not to do a full life cycle review at this time.  In later iterations of the standard we hope to expand thoughout each step of the value chain.  There are already several green certification standards for end use consumer products (cleaners, computers, carpets, etc.) and we didn’t want to duplicate that.  There is no standard directed at the raw materials from chemical manufacture. So this is a B2B – business to business – information standard.

My view of the purpose is to come up with a way to present a reliable set of information on a variety of attributes that companies that are trying to go green are looking at.  The standard should be focused on not defining what is “green” as an endpoint, but providing information that a business purchaser can use to decide which chemicals from which sources meet whatever their most important “green” or sustainability goals are. In addition, the customer will be able to use this information in describing his own products and processes (eventually using the next iteration of the standard) to pass on “green” information to his customers.

As noted in the C&EN article, there is a strong demand to go beyond this to a whole life cycle evaluation and a “green” label – but we aren’t there yet.  We are taking a first step.  My assumption is that there is no magic single number of “greenicity” or simple label to generate because each company has its own context and set of issues it is trying to manage and the information is quite diverse and complicated to be able to quantify in a single value:  How do you add tons of greenhouse gas + mg/kg acute toxicity to worms?.  If water supply is a big issue where they are, then water conservation will be weighted higher than if water is quite abundant.  If they are sophisticated in how to manage workplace exposures, then toxicity may not be as high a concern as, say,  greenhouse gas releases.  If their process demands certain performance characteristics of its raw materials, this should provide a way to compare chemistry and suppliers to make the “greener” choice, even if the chemicals are not the greenest.

We still have a ways to go on this standard.  My biggest worry is we’ll make it so complicated and burdensome no one will use it.  But we might also come up with ways to help people identify areas where they can make significant steps toward sustainability without making it just a simple-minded checklist (see previous rant).

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The state of California has a Green Chemistry Initiative “to establish the blueprint for keeping California in the forefront of protecting health and the environment in a robust economy.” They are trying to reinvent how to manage chemicals via blog. What I fear they will wind up with is a monstrous new regulatory regime on top of the already Byzantine array of chemical regulations. Topics now include California doing its own version of Europe’s REACH. Here’s my blog contribution:

California should focus on 1) building knowledge needed to make better life cycle based decisions and 2) supporting entrepreneurship to implement advances. See Part II of my comments below.

But first, a satiric set of steps for the “final solution” for California:

I. Creating The Country Of Green California

1. Secede from the US and form the country of Green California (GC). The country’s motto will be “Sustainability Above All.”
2. Prohibit manufacture and import of any product without prior registration, review and authorization by the government of GC. A base set of test data is required – as in REACH – with the possibility of additional testing as the reviewers may want. Only products deemed to be “green” will be approved for use for a period of two years, after which a new review and probably additional testing will be required since the definition of “green” will have changed in two years. Staff will be drawn from UC Berkeley, who will define “green,” the base set of data that must be submitted, and make decisions to authorize sales as they think is appropriate. There will be no right of appeal. (A border wall may be required to prevent smuggling.)
3. Require all agriculture and manufacturing operations to be “organic” and sustainable, as defined by the staff at UC Davis and UC Berkeley, respectively.
4. Prohibit personal cars, as they are the scourge of GC’s environment. All existing personal cars will be confiscated and recycled. GC will use the scrap sales to purchase zero emission cars for designated essential government personnel. All other citizens must use mass transit.
5. Prohibit all waste disposal (except for incineration in permitted zero emission facilities for energy recovery). All materials must be reused, recycled or stored safely for future use and recycle. This will support a robust barter economy for GC citizens and reduce the amount of new products (that are authorized under CAL-REACH). Illegal disposal will be punished by deportation.
6. GC will be self-sufficient and sustainable in energy and water use. Each citizen will be given an annual ration of energy and water, proportionate to the population (after allocation for government use made).
7. Population reduction: It is expected that the above restrictions will result in a significant migration out of the country of Green California. In addition, illegal immigration is likely to cease because the economy of GC will be unstable for a significant period of time. If insufficient numbers of people leave GC, it may be necessary to limit the number of children to two per family unit.
8. Professors at UC Berkeley will report to the president of Green California on the options available to prevent further degradation of GC’s environment (e.g., air pollution, global warming) by other countries, such as China or the United States. The options will include both political (e.g., declaring war) and technical (massive fans along the borders) solutions and their net impact on the sustainability of Green California.

Final Solution: California becomes a self-sustaining island (an island, at any rate.)

II. Supporting the Future

California would best serve its citizens by supporting continued movement toward greener chemistry in two areas:

1. Building Knowledge: California has incredible public and private higher education resources. These should be supported fully and directed toward better understanding the ecosystem, developing new technologies (especially in energy generation and utilization), and educating the public so we can make better decisions and implement solutions to known and future issues. This initiative is focused on chemicals – man-made chemicals – but the issues in need of research and development extend beyond how chemicals interact in the environment and impact health. Scientific, medical, social, political, economic, technological actions all impact the ecosystems of earth. We need to understand how we can intentionally and unintentionally change the system to reduce adverse impacts. We also need to understand where the biggest threats to health and the environment come from because we can never eliminate all risks.
I do not believe “toxic” chemicals represent the biggest challenges we should spend our limited risk reduction resources on. The real issue is our ignorant misuse of chemicals – we inefficiently use chemicals as fuels, make consumable products we don’t really need and then release them into the environment without thinking about the consequences. California should build knowledge in all its citizens and businesses about product stewardship and life cycle thinking to achieve responsible development and use of chemicals in products.

2. Supporting Entrepreneurial Effort: Engage the business creativity resources in the state in a Sputnik/Man on the Moon effort by providing economic incentives to develop and implement solutions to our biggest challenge: sustainable energy. We need low impact energy sources and high efficiency energy utilization technologies. Support invention; don’t suppress it.

Do not create duplicative, expensive and inefficient review and approval processes that will drag down the already challenged California and national economies. “Toxic chemicals” are not a significant threat to public health – poverty is.

[Disclosure: I am a California native with a degree from the University of California, San Diego.]

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