EPA Adds Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) Category to Toxics Release Inventory List

EPA has finalized a rule adding a hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) category to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) list of reportable chemicals. This action will expand the scope of chemicals subject to TRI reporting and provide communities with more complete information on toxic chemical releases.

HBCD is a brominated flame retardant used mainly in expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) and extruded polystyrene foam (XPS). EPS and XPS are used primarily for thermal insulation boards in the building and construction industry. HBCD may also be used as a flame retardant in textiles. Concerns about releases and uses of HBCD have been raised because it is found worldwide in the environment and wildlife and has also been found in human breast milk, fat tissue and blood.

EPA also determined that HBCD meets the environmental effects criterion for listing because it is highly toxic to aquatic and terrestrial organisms. Additionally, HBCD bioaccumulates and is persistent in the environment. As a result, HBCD meets the TRI criteria for a Persistent, Bioaccumulative, and Toxic (PBT) chemical and is designated as a chemical of special concern, with a 100-pound reporting threshold.

For more information on EPA’s work with flame retardants, visit:


New ISTC fact sheet: Zero Waste Program Case Study: Spraying Systems Co.

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Spraying Systems Co. manufactures industrial and agricultural spray products, including spray nozzles and accessories. The company wanted to reduce its waste generation and increase diversion. ISTC’s Zero Waste program helped them achieve their goals by providing the company with an accurate baseline measurement of waste generation at its Wheaton, Illinois headquarters. In addition, ISTC staff collaborated with Spray System’s operations, manufacturing, and sustainability teams to devise a plan for improving waste diversion. Finally, ISTC staff conducted a post-implementation waste stream characterization to measure success and identify opportunities for improvement.

New ISTC fact sheet: 2015 Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Award Winner: Hoffer Plastics, Inc.

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Hoffer Plastics, located in South Elgin, Illinois, specializes in making custom plastic injection molded items. Their products are used in retail packaging and in the automotive, medical, and appliance industries. Hoffer Plastics used a number of strategies to increase efficiency and reduce their environmental impact. They initiated a 100% facility-wide recycling program that diverted 58,000 pounds of materials from the landfill. Their energy conservation measures reduced their electricity consumption by nearly 4 million kWh. Conservation strategies included: installing high efficiency lighting; replaced chilled water pump motors with variable-frequency drive motors; installed thermal blankets on machine barrels; and implementing a compressed air efficiency initiative. Installing a cooling water filtration system that captures back-flushed water to reuse in the cooling towers has reduced the company’s water use by 1.3 million gallons.

Informational Webinar: How to Apply for an EPA P3 Grant

Tuesday 12/06/2016 1:00PM to 2:00PM CST
Register at https://www.epa.gov/P3/informational-webinar-how-apply-epa-p3-grant

Join this informational webinar to learn more about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2017 – 2018 P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) request for applications (RFA). Learn about EPA’s P3 program, topics in this year’s upcoming funding opportunity, and how to apply. EPA P3 program experts will be available to answer questions during a question & answer (Q&A) session following the presentation.

Green Infrastructure and Climate Change: Collaborating to Improve Community Resiliency

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As different parts of the country become drier, wetter or hotter, community leaders and citizens are looking to green infrastructure to improve their community’s resiliency to the effects of climate change. In 2015, EPA convened charrettes, or intensive planning sessions, in four cities to demonstrate how this type of planning could be applied to communities dealing with a range of challenges. Each city’s charrette focused on different issues based on the most pressing climate change impacts they were facing and their current level of green infrastructure implementation.

In each city, participants were selected from a variety of disciplines, including city decision makers, climate scientists, water resource specialists, city planners, and neighborhood and environmental groups, among others.

Brewers Put Energy Savings on Tap

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Crafting a cold brew is highly resource intensive. But dozens of breweries across Oregon are taking steps to reduce energy use and cut waste, making the state a beervana of sustainable brewing practices.

Democratic databases: science on GitHub

Read the full story at Nature.

Launched in 2008 to assist software developers, GitHub now boasts some 15 million users and is an increasingly popular site for researchers to share, maintain and update scientific data sets and code (see ‘Growing influence of GitHub’). GitHub is “the biggest revelation in my workflow … since I started writing code”, says Daniel Falster, a postdoctoral researcher in ecology at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. “When we started using GitHub, it was just amazing. We now use it in everything that we do.” Falster’s Biomass and Allometry Database, which aggregates various measures of plant size from 176 studies, is stored on the site. So is the Open Tree of Life project, which aims to compile different published phylogenies to build one master ‘tree of life’. It uses GitHub to store data files and publication records, and to accept new data sets from third parties.

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore: Fluorescent Ruby Red Roofs Stay as Cool as White

Read the full story from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Elementary school science teaches us that in the sun, dark colors get hot while white stays cool. Now new research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has found an exception: Scientists have determined that certain dark pigments can stay just as cool as white by using fluorescence, the re-emission of absorbed light.

The researchers tested this concept by coloring cool roof coatings with ruby red (aluminum oxide doped with chromium). Led by Berkeley Lab scientist Paul Berdahl, they first found that white paint overlaid with a layer of ruby crystals stayed as cool as a commercial white coating. Next, they synthesized ruby pigment to mix into coatings. Their results were published recently in the journal Solar Energy Materials & Solar Cells, in an article titled “Fluorescent cooling of objects exposed to sunlight—The ruby example.”

A Plan to Clean Up DePue: Academia Meets Advocacy

Read the full story from Northwestern University.

For over 20 years, the citizens of DePue, Illinois—a relatively quiet town about 100 miles southwest of Chicago—have been engaged in an environmental legal battle with some of the largest corporations in the United States. The Environmental Advocacy Center (EAC) at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law has represented the community members since 2010 and is determined to see the remediation of the contamination sites in support of the health and well-being of residents. To support its advocacy work in DePue, the EAC is leveraging academic expertise from across the university—ranging from chemistry to journalism. And the center has made marked progress in recent months: a clean-up plan for a large residential zone in DePue may be on the horizon.

Two GAO reports on the Renewable Fuel Standard

Renewable Fuel Standard: Program Unlikely to Meet Its Targets for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GAO-17-94)

The Renewable Fuel Standard program is unlikely to meet its targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and expanding the U.S. renewable fuels sector. Advanced biofuels—fuels that achieve the most greenhouse gas reductions—aren’t being produced at the necessary levels, and they likely won’t be by 2022.

Less than 5% of the 3 billion gallon advanced biofuel RFS target was produced in 2015, and additional investments for commercialization seem unlikely.

Experts cited multiple federal actions that could incrementally improve the investment climate for advanced biofuels, such as reducing uncertainty about the future of the RFS and tax credits.

Renewable Fuel Standard: Low Expected Production Volumes Make It Unlikely That Advanced Biofuels Can Meet Increasing Targets (GAO-17-108)

The Renewable Fuel Standard program calls for greater use of advanced biofuels—fuel made from waste fats and oils or crop residues, for example—in the transportation fuel supply through 2022.

Yet, there is not nearly enough of this fuel to meet the program’s targets—nor will there likely be enough in the near future. Experts we interviewed cited the high costs of creating advanced biofuel, the relatively low price of fossil fuel, the timing and cost to bring new tech to commercial-scale production, regulatory uncertainty, and other issues as challenges to increased production.