Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Better living through GREEN chemistry

by Ken Zarker, Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction Program

As a parent of two elementary school kids, I’m aware of the growing concern about toxics in products. Our kids come into contact with everyday products found in our home and schools – from personal care products, to art supplies and the janitorial cleaning supplies used in the schools.

A poll conducted in August, 2009 by the opinion research firm Lake Research Partners found that Americans are very concerned with the way chemicals are regulated for consumer use in the U.S. The findings come as new legislation—an overhaul of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act—is expected to be introduced soon in both Houses of the U.S. Congress.

Increasingly, consumers are recognizing the value of non-toxic and low-toxic products. And companies are realizing that this market is good for their bottom line and the environment. This helps Washington continue to be a leader in the creation of green jobs.

Green chemistry, green building, green energy, green purchasing are all important, emerging niches for Washington State’s economy. And they all rely on non-toxic materials.

Now, a new resource guide on green chemistry is available to help grow Washington’s green economy. The report is based on the 12 principles of green chemistry. These were defined by Paul Anastas and John Warner as “the utilization of a set of principles that reduces or eliminates the use or generation of hazardous substances in the design, manufacture and application of chemicals and products.”

The report recommends action states can take to promote safer products in four broad areas:
1) information development, collection and dissemination;
2) economic incentives;
3) recognition programs, and
4) regulation and policy, including the following:
  • Promote chemical information and assessing alternatives.
  • Provide tax incentives for green chemistry and design for environment.
  • Implement award programs for green chemistry and design for environment.
  • Require safer alternatives planning.

This report is both timely and strategic. It will promote states’ actions on toxics reduction, greening the supply chain, and economic growth – the framework for a more sustainable chemical industry. We expect many new cross-sector initiatives that will advance the goals of environmental protection and economic development.

This project was a collaborative effort among business, government, nongovernmental organizations and academia. Our project partners include the Green Chemistry and Commerce Council, National Pollution Prevention Roundtable, and the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production.

For more information on Reducing Toxic Threats: