Hazardous and Solid Waste

EPA’s P2 Programs Offer Plenty of Success Stories

When we think about P2 and waste reduction, it’s easy to skip right to the end of the pipe to determine success or failure. But in reality, it is the processes and procedures in between, from laboratories to shop floors to end users, that hold the keys to most P2 success stories.

One of the most significant (and ongoing) success stories to come from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Design for the Environment (DfE) program is the alternatives assessment for nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), chemicals that have been widely used in surfactants and wetting agents for detergents, cleaners, carriers, and other products. Long considered “work horse” surfactants, NPEs were both high performing and cost effective. Unfortunately, they also degrade in the environment to nonylphenol (NP), which is lethal to fish and other aquatic life at concentrations in the low parts per billion.

In 2010 EPA issued an Action Plan to address concerns about the ecological effects of NPEs from manufacturing, processing, commercial distribution, and uses of NPEs. In May 2012, the EPA released a final Alternatives Assessment indentifying eight different, safer alternatives to NPEs resulting in more than 2,700 products containing surfactants meeting DfE Criteria for Safer Surfactants and labeled as such. Considering that NPEs comprised 80-85 percent of surfactants used in such products, the alternatives represent great strides in P2 and waste reduction, upstream and down.

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Looking at waste reduction from a different angle, the Sustainable Materials Management Program has recorded dozens of successful P2 projects nationwide. In the construction industry, for example, EPA has 24 “Green Team” partners that have signed onto its Green Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Program that takes into account the entire process from design, through construction and long-term operations and maintenance. Cumulatively, program accomplishments to date include:

  • More than 8,500 buildings constructed and operated in a sustainable manner, and
  • Greenhouse gas reductions (GHGs) attributed to the Green MOU Program equaling 1.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (MTCO2e), an amount of CO2 emission approximately equal to burning a train full of coal 96 miles long.

Equally important is that in addition to project assistance, the EPA not only assists program partners provides partners with individualized Environmental Assessment Reports that quantify both the environmental benefits and the climate profile, calculate the GHG and carbon footprint reductions and translate them into equivalents, such as barrels of oil conserved , and provide an overall breakdown of the partners green activities and accomplishments.

Another SMM program, the Food Recovery Challenge (FRC), also netted some remarkable achievements by award winners in 2012. Together, the seven data-driven award recipients prevented and diverted a total of 2,169 tons of food waste from entering landfills and incinerators. In 2013, the EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the collaborative U.S. Food Waste Challenge to further expand attention to and participation in programs to eliminate food waste, and also offer technical assistance and recognition to participants.

Join us for an in-depth webinar on February 25 . Our speaker, a seasoned EHS professional who has extensive experience in negotiating and renegotiating contracts, will provide participants with a tested approach for using EHS and supply chain managers’ respective perspectives and knowledge on solid waste to foster a proven approach that can provide big benefits.

One of the EPA’s most successful and longest-running P2 programs is its Green Chemistry initiative that includes the Presidential Green Chemical Challenge. From 1996 through 2013, 93 Challenge award winners are credited with annually eliminating 826 million pounds of hazardous chemicals and solvents, saving more than 21 billion gallons of water and eliminating 7.9 billion pounds of carbon dioxide equivalents into the air.

In 2013, award winning projects ran the gamut from new sustainable polymers and composites made from vegetable oil, chicken feathers and flax to a high-performing replacement for toxic transformer fluids to metal-free catalysts for synthesizing plastics that can minimize environmental concerns and enable cradle-to-cradle recycling.

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