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POLLUTION PREVENTION NORTHWEST

volume 10, issue 2

REMINDER: 20 Years Ago...

The year 1991: It was the first season the then 15-year old Mariner team finished above .500. The soap series, “Dallas,” was just ending and Jay Leno was announced as Johnny Carson’s replacement as host of the “Tonight” show. It was also the year that the Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Research Center (PPRC) opened its doors. The Pacific Northwest Hazardous Waste Advisory Council, appointed by governors from the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska, had just finished up several years of work to set the course for forward-thinking efforts in the Northwest. Among their recommendations was that a nonprofit organization be formed to serve as a catalyst, a clearinghouse, facilitator, and collaborator to promote and support pollution prevention in the region. On Earth Day 1991, PPRC’s doors were opened. Now, PPRC has the unique opportunity to celebrate 20 years of success in the Northwest region and set a course for our collective priorities in the next 20 years. We hope you’ll join us next week on September 20 - 21, along with some very special guests, to celebrate our many achievements in preserving the quality of life so important to inhabitants of this special place on Earth and help us envision our efforts for the future.

REGISTER FOR PPRC's 20th Anniversary Celebration

Not only is it the 20th anniversary of PPRC, but it’s the 20th anniversary of the Washington Department of Ecology’s Pollution Prevention Program as well. Together we’ve invited many regional leaders to join us during our special banquet celebration of both anniversaries on September 20. Our keynote speaker is Dara O’Rourke, former PPRC staffer, who is now a professor at the University of California, Berkley, and is co-founder and Chief Sustainability Officer of GoodGuide, the most comprehensive source of consumer information on the health, environmental and social performance of products and companies. Under Dara’s leadership, GoodGuide has been named: one of the World’s “50 Most Innovative Companies” by Fast Company; the New York Times “App of the Week”; and the TechCrunch startup “Most Likely to Make the World a Better Place.”

Following an evening of celebration, participants will gather in a session the next day, facilitated by Bill Ross of Ross & Associates (who facilitated the Pacific Northwest Hazardous Waste Advisory Council that led to PPRC’s founding) to envision the region’s pollution prevention priorities for the next 20 years. It is absolutely essential to have you there for this important exercise. A robust and diverse group of business and environmental sustainability leaders who are creative thinkers, strategists, and pragmatists will be important to envision the future for pollution prevention in the next 20 years.

The staff and board of PPRC are extremely excited about next week's celebrations and look forward to seeing you there!

-Paula Del Giudice, Executive Director, PPRC

EcoBiz-ness is good business

The Eco-Logical Business Certification program or “EcoBiz” is an Oregon-based program developed 14 years ago by local governments acting as the Pollution Prevention Outreach Team (P2O) interested in innovative ways to meet their pollution prevention goals. P2O is made up of agency staff from Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), cities of Portland, Gresham, and Tualatin; and Washington and Clackamas counties; Clean Water Services and Metro. PPRC has been a P2O partner since 2008 under contract with Clean Water Services and through grant funding to provide outreach, technical assistance, and as a partner in program development.

ecobizEcoBiz Automotive was the first multi-media program of its kind and the Landscape program may still be the only multi-media certification in the country. P2O selected these as areas of focus because of their multi-media impacts--air, water, soil, toxics, and greenhouse gases--that can be mitigated with better business practices. These two sectors are comprised of hundreds of small, under-regulated businesses that individually have small environmental impacts, but that collectively have substantial impacts. They do not receive great amounts of technical assistance through other agencies and they also have a large retail clientele with great potential to influence their customers.

To become certified, a business completes the program checklist, receives a list of recommendations and, when complete, it has a certification visit from a DEQ and local water agency representative. Once certified, the business gets a variety of signs, certificates, logos, and giveaways they can use to market themselves as an EcoBiz-certified company. The program lists certified companies in ads in the Chinook Book, Redirect Guide, the program website, and other print advertising, and promotes EcoBiz companies at trade shows and community events.

The free advertising is a strong factor in attracting small businesses to the program, since many of them have very limited capacity to market themselves. Certification is also something they can use to differentiate themselves from their competition.

As of July, 2011, 138 automotive or fleet maintenance shops, 12 car washes, and 20 landscape firms have been certified.
A company needs to be within regulatory compliance to be certified. Certification can help a company achieve compliance. DEQ recognizes an EcoBiz certification as meeting the requirements for the EPA air quality regulation for auto body shops. In addition, the program is seen as a way to reduce some of the persistent bio-accumulative substances covered by Oregon Senate Bill 737. Some of these toxics are ingredients in cleaning products, pesticides, and office and shop supplies.

The EcoBiz checklists are comprehensive and specific to each sector and serve as a great learning tool for the owners, as the companies always learn something new about operating in a more sustainable fashion during the certification process.
Under a grant and partnership with Portland State University in summer 2011, students are working with EcoBiz to develop better methods of measuring the environmental impacts of businesses’ changed practices fostered by the program, as well as evaluating marketing methods for bringing more businesses on board.

For information about the program, please contact Debra Taevs at dtaevs@pprc.org 503-336-1256

-Debra Taevs, PPRC

Washington State Seek New Approaches to Safer Products

Key players from all different sectors – government, businesses, nonprofits, educators, and US EPA – gathered in Renton, Wash. back in May, 2011 to discuss how Washington State can implement the concepts of green chemistry. Green chemistry describes a cutting-edge, holistic approach to creating products and materials in which harmful substances are avoided or reduced and waste, water use, and energy use are addressed from the start, with Green Chemistrylifecycle and disposal aspects also taken into account. Ted Sturdevant, Director of Washington’s Department of Ecology, commented in his introductory remarks that the state is very good at cleaning up harmful materials after the fact but not yet skilled at early-stage prevention. He declared that green chemistry will be "the future" of health and environmental protection.

The conference was hosted by The Boeing Company and organized by Washington State University, Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center, Department of Commerce, Green Chemistry in Commerce Council, and Department of Ecology. The goal of this roundtable discussion was to seek input for a Washington state roadmap to guide the public and private sectors toward the goals of Green Chemistry. Following Sturdevant, numerous panelists described the virtues of a proactive approach and outlined barriers and challenges to integrating Green Chemistry into business as usual.

Speaker after speaker identified the lack of data on many chemicals in commerce as a major hindrance. Replacing toxic chemicals in products with safer alternatives sounds easy, but it is impossible to ensure one alternative is safer than another if data on the chemicals is lacking. This has led to examples of what panelists called “regrettable substitutions,” when manufacturers replace one chemical that has raised concerns with another chemical that later turns out to be equally bad or worse.

Participants agreed that the federal system for regulating chemicals in commerce is inadequate and needs to be revised. With action from Capitol Hill not likely in the foreseeable future, in the last decade states have stepped in with a plethora of new laws. State Senator Phil Rockefeller noted that the conventional strategy is to learn alarming data about a specific chemical and then attempt to regulate that particular chemical or class of chemicals. A Green Chemistry Approach, he said, would be more proactive and encourage manufacturers to produce safer materials and products to begin with. His desire is to have government work collaboratively with the private sector to find opportunities for progress rather than rely on punitive actions. The roadmap is an attempt to articulate ways to achieve this collaborative progress. Input from the roundtable will be incorporated into a first draft of the roadmap, which will be circulated to participants later this summer.

-Audrey Leath, Journalist & Ken Zarker, Washington Department of Ecology

EPA Releases Toxicity and Exposures Databases

Assessing risk of public health and environmental effects of a chemical is a complex function of toxicity and exposure.  The current process of assigning potential risk is expensive and slow, and has resulted in inadequate testing of many of the 80,000 industrial chemicals in use today.  The data generated from these studies are also challenging to find as the information is scattered throughout different sources.

epa logoThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is trying to address these issues and released two databases earlier this summer for scientists and the public: the Toxicity Forecaster Database (ToxCastDB) and a database of chemical exposure studies (ExpoCastDB).  ToxCastDB and ExpoCastDB are connected through the Aggregated Computational Toxicology Resource (ACToR), an online warehouse that allows users to search for and link data collected from over 500 public sources on tens of thousands environmentally relevant chemicals.

These databases are part of a larger program working to improve the current approach of risk assessment of environmental and health effects of chemicals.  The EPA is developing an innovative research program, the Computational Toxicology Research Program (CompTox), which will enable efficient screening of chemicals to predict and identify potential health risks.  The goal of this program is to provide high-throughput decision support tools for assessing chemical exposure, toxicity, and risk to human health and the environment. 

ToxCastDB currently contains results of 500 high throughput in vitro assays for 300 environmental chemicals.  These data are from the ToxCast program- a multi-year effort collecting data to help understand the biological processes impacted by chemicals that may lead to adverse health effects.  The ToxCastDB is expected to contain information for 1,000 compounds by May 2012.  The chemicals currently in the database are mainly pesticides, but the 700 chemicals in the process of being screened are found in industrial and consumer products, food additives, and drugs that never made it to the market.

ExpocastDB provides easy access to results from multiple studies that collected chemical measurements in homes and childcare centers.  This database includes information on levels of chemicals measured in environmental media (such as air, soil, house dust, and food) and in biological media (such as urine).  Downloadable datasets of exposure data and their summary statistics are available.  The EPA will continue to add internal and external chemical exposure data to ExpoCastDB.

-Saskia Van Bergen,

The Zero-Waste Quest: All Waste Needs a Proper Home
A Material Exchange Story

An Oregon paint company that sells paint and painting supplies has their paint brushes shipped to them secured with rubber bands around the bristles to protect the integrity and quality of the bristles.

While the paint company is moving toward zero-waste, this particular shipping method generates a stream of rubber bands that accumulate after removalrubber bands and preparation of brushes for retail sale. The paint company has explored numerous ideas for alternatives uses for the rubber bands, such as giving them to local newspaper delivery vendors, recycling into tires, and returning them to the supplier for reuse. These options were not feasible locally – or with the supplier; none of these local outlets would accept them and a tire manufacturer was not interested.

The paint company contacted PPRC for suggestions, via our Rapid Response service. PPRC proposed ideas they had already explored, but took it one step further and posted the question of what to do with perfectly usable rubber bands, to the Jobs Through Recycling (JTR) Professional Network Yahoo Group. Many of the already-explored opportunities came pouring in, and then, a nonprofit responded and said they need rubber bands for a host of uses.

The nonprofit and the paint company are located within a reasonable shipping distance from each other. The paint company shipped the existing stash of stored-up rubber bands (all 3,000 pounds of them) to the nonprofit, and was hoping to continue to be able to make this exchange in the future, with the potential to avoid “landfilling” this still useful material at the rate of about 480 pounds per year.

Unfortunately, the rubber bands have a small amount of bristle contamination that made the rubber bands unusable to the nonprofit. PPRC is currently looking into material exchanges and recycled-content transportation products as possible solutions. However, if any of our readers have additional suggestions, either for a supply of clean, used rubber bands for the nonprofit, or an outlet for the used rubber bands from the paint company, please contact us at office@pprc.org.

-Michelle Gaither, PPRC

 

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