We know the wrong way to deal with e-waste. But what should we do instead?

Read the full post at Ensia.

A handful of firms around the world are working to develop environmentally responsible recycling and disposal strategies. Here’s what they have to teach the rest of us.

From pollution to packaging

Read the full story in Plastics News.

From resin maker to packaging user, a group of companies is proving that ocean-bound plastics can be successfully captured and be used in a new high-end application.

Strategic, Financial, and Design Implications of Extended Producer Responsibility in Europe: A Producer Case Study

C. Kieren Mayers (2018). “Strategic, Financial, and Design Implications of Extended Producer Responsibility in Europe: A Producer Case Study.” Journal of Industrial Ecology 11(3), 113-131. https://doi.org/10.1162/jiec.2007.1228

Abstract: Extended producer responsibility (EPR) legislation, making producers responsible for financing and organizing take‐back and recycling of waste batteries, packaging, end‐of‐life vehicles (ELVs), and waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), has been or is currently in the process of being implemented in 29 different countries in Europe following introduction of European Union directives. This article reviews the potential impacts of EPR for waste batteries, packaging, and WEEE on producers distributing products in Europe through a case study of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE)—responsible for marketing and distribution of PlayStation products.

There are presently more than 250 producer responsibility organizations (PROs) established to meet EPR obligations in Europe, which contrasts to the single national recycling schemes founded in the late 1990s. SCEE estimates it avoided anetcostof €408,000 in 2005 by introducing competitive review of PRO services (against a total net take‐back cost of €401,000).To meet increasingly extensive compliance obligations, SCEE has initiated new activities, with considerable implications for the company’s legal, sales data administration, procurement, accounting, and product and packaging approval practices.

Considering the ultimate aim of EPR to establish economic incentives for improved product design, several significant political and practical obstacles are described from SCEE’s case and industry situation. Although the principle of EPR is indeed interesting, its practical application in Europe may require refinement. Producers, given adequate support by policy makers, still have opportunities to develop new processes under the WEEE Directive to facilitate design for the environment.

The Role of Extended Producer Responsibility Policy and its Influence on Design for Environment within the Electronics Industry

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Growth in consumer electronics production has increased volumes of electronic waste (e-waste) generation, with an estimated 41.8 metric tons generated in 2014. Mismanagement of e-waste has resulted in environmental degradation and increased human exposure to toxins. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) has emerged as a leading policy approach for the management of e-waste, aiming to shift financial and logistical responsibility for disposal of products at end-of-life onto manufacturers. By holding manufacturers responsible for the collection and disposal of e-waste, EPR policies aim to create incentives for sustainable product design. Sustainable product design has been lauded as a potential vehicle to harmonize the economic growth of the tech industry with that of environmental protection. Design for Environment (DfE), a strategy for incorporating sustainability into product design, includes decreased use of toxins, easier disassembly, and increased lifespan of products. This study examined the role of EPR policies in stimulating efforts to incorporate DfE via multiple case studies of four electronics manufacturers, supplemented by interviews with three industry stakeholders, as well as a content analysis of 20 leading electronics manufacturers. This study revealed factors that may be impeding EPR policies from incentivizing sustainable product design, as well shedding light on a broader issue; how effectively is the continued growth of this industry balanced with environmental protection?

Planning for national solar panel product stewardship underway

Read the full story in Waste Management Review (Australia).

Research for a national product stewardship program for photovoltaic systems, which include solar panels, is underway.

Sustainability Victoria has appointed product stewardship consultant Equilibrium to analyse and assess potential options for a national product stewardship to help manage end of life products.

Columbia River Basin: Additional Federal Actions Would Benefit Restoration Efforts

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What GAO Found

Various entities, including federal and state agencies and tribes, implemented restoration efforts to improve water quality in the Columbia River Basin from fiscal years 2010 through 2016, according to GAO survey results. Entities implemented a range of restoration efforts. Efforts included activities to improve surface water quality and restore and protect habitat. For example, the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho implemented projects on the Kootenai River to restore and maintain conditions that support all life stages of native fish.

Entities used various collaborative approaches. Entities’ approaches to collaboration for selected water quality-related efforts in the Basin varied. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sought various entities’ voluntary involvement to coordinate toxics reduction efforts in the Basin.

Total federal expenditures could not be determined. Entities reported using a mix of federal and nonfederal funding sources for restoration efforts in the Basin, but total federal expenditures could not be determined, in part because there is no federal funding dedicated to restoring the Basin.

EPA and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) have not yet implemented Section 123. According to EPA officials, the agency has not yet taken steps to establish the Columbia River Basin Restoration Program, as required by the Clean Water Act Section 123. EPA officials told GAO they have not received dedicated funding appropriated for this purpose; however, EPA has not yet requested funding to implement the program or identified needed resources. By developing a program management plan that identifies actions and resources needed, EPA would have more reasonable assurance that it can establish the program in a timely manner. Also, an interagency crosscut budget has not been submitted. According to OMB officials, they have had internal conversations on the approach to develop the budget but have not requested information from agencies. A crosscut budget would help ensure Congress is better informed as it considers funding for Basin restoration efforts.

Map of the Columbia River Basin

Map of the Columbia River Basin

Why GAO Did This Study

The Basin is one of the nation’s largest watersheds and extends mainly through four Western states and into Canada. Activities such as power generation and agricultural practices have impaired water quality in some areas, so that human health is at risk and certain species, such as salmon, are threatened or extinct. In December 2016, Congress amended the Clean Water Act by adding Section 123, which requires EPA and OMB to take actions related to restoration efforts in the Basin.

GAO was asked to review restoration efforts in the Basin. This report examines (1) efforts to improve water quality in the Basin from fiscal years 2010 through 2016; (2) approaches to collaboration that entities have used for selected efforts; (3) sources of funding and federal funding expenditures; and (4) the extent to which EPA and OMB have implemented Clean Water Act Section 123. GAO reviewed documentation, including laws, policies, and budget information; surveyed federal, state, tribal, and nongovernmental entities that GAO determined had participated in restoration efforts; and conducted interviews with officials from most of these entities.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making three recommendations, including that EPA develop a program management plan for implementing the Columbia River Basin Restoration Program and that OMB compile and submit an interagency crosscut budget. EPA agreed with its recommendation. OMB did not comment, and GAO maintains its recommendations are valid.

EDF submits extensive comments critical of EPA OPPT’s TSCA systematic review document

Read the full story from EDF.

Last night, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) submitted critical comments on EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics’ (OPPT) “systematic review” document that OPPT is using to evaluate chemicals’ risks under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Systematic review, a hallmark of the clinical sciences, employs structured approaches to identifying, evaluating, and integrating evidence in a manner that promotes scientific rigor, consistency, transparency, objectivity, and reduction of bias.

Unfortunately, OPPT’s systematic review document deviates dramatically from the best practices in systematic review—practices developed over decades based on empirical evidence and experience in application. OPPT’s approach also significantly diverges from recent recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences (see here and here).

ChemTRAC: Pollution prevention in the Greater Toronto Area

Read the full story in CollisionRepairMag.com.

With the growing production of new chemical substances, the automotive refinishing sector in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) has evolved over the past decade.

The facilities within the automotive refinishing sector generate waste and emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and fine particulate matter, such as dust and nitrogen oxides (NO x ). These pollutants can be released to the environment and can potentially cause adverse health effects to workers and the surrounding community.

The automotive refinishing sector within the GTA has experienced challenges in diverging from traditional practices and in identifying key priority chemicals used in the industry.

To address these continued challenges, Toronto Public Health collaborated with Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) to promote the ChemTRAC pollution prevention (P2) program. The main objectives of the P2 effort were to engage with facilities; increase public awareness through the reporting of the use and release of chemicals; reduce the use of priority chemicals; potentially improve the health and safety of employees, the environment and community; minimize waste and assist facilities in implementing sustainable practices.

Systematic Approach to Understanding Tree Swallow Health in the Great Lakes Region—Science to Inform Restoration

Read the full story from the USGS.

Four papers by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists document tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) chemical exposure, physiological responses, and reproductive success in the Great Lakes region. These studies were designed to understand if there are health threats to swallows from contaminant exposure, and to provide resource managers with information about the actual as opposed to the perceived risks of exposure, which is needed to inform restoration efforts.

Life cycle assessment on PERC solar modules

Marina M. Lunardi, J.P. Alvarez-Gaitan, Nathan L.Chang, Richard Corkish (2018). “Life cycle assessment on PERC solar modules.” Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells, 187, 154-159. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.solmat.2018.08.004

Abstract: The screen-printed aluminium back surface field (Al-BSF) technology is the current industry standard process for crystalline silicon solar cells but, due to the search for higher efficiency, much attention has been paid to the passivated emitter and rear cell (PERC), which is gaining significant share in the world market. We undertake an environmental analysiscomparing Al-BSF and PERC monocrystalline solar modules. Through the life cycle assessment (LCA) method we calculate the global warming, human toxicity (cancer and non-cancer effects), freshwater eutrophication, freshwater ecotoxicity, abiotic depletion potentials and energy payback time of these technologies considering solar, electronic and upgraded metallurgical grade silicon feedstock. The functional unit considered is 1 kWh of energy delivered over the modules’ lifetime. As a result of this work, we showed that PERC technology generates a slight improvement in the environmental impacts when compared with Al-BSF. The use of electronic and upgraded metallurgical grade silicon results in lower environmental impacts in most cases, compared with the other technologies analysed, based on the assumptions made in this LCA.