Given the increased focus on PFAS from a regulatory perspective, various federal, state, non-profits, and private organizations have focused on continuing to fund research to fill necessary knowledge gaps and advance the current science. In 2021, there were continued peer-reviewed research studies that were published which a focus on solid waste related topics. These studies focused on the disposal of municipal solid waste (MSW), treatment of landfill leachate, management of treatment residuals (e.g., spent treatment media and regeneration), fate of PFAS during waste collection, food waste characterization, and recycling.
The Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) launched its PFAS Strategic Roadmap: EPA’s Commitments to Action 2021-2024 (the “Roadmap”) on October 18, 2021. EPA presents the Roadmap as a comprehensive approach outlining the agency’s actions to address per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (“PFAS”) over the next three years and provides insights into what to expect from the agency. The agency’s strategy incorporates multiple EPA offices and draws on multiple sources of regulatory authority, indicating that EPA’s PFAS strategy will likely include new regulations integrated into a number of existing EPA programs on an incremental basis. The Roadmap, developed by the EPA Council on PFAS, provides what it calls a “lifecycle approach to PFAS,” focused around three “central directives:” (1) Research; (2) Restrict; and (3) Remediate. EPA also placed a particular emphasis on ensuring engagement and equitable access to solutions regarding low-income and communities of color. In this article, we discuss what to expect from EPA based on the Roadmap.
Looking ahead to later in 2022, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is expected to review and update its “Green Guides“, which “…set forth the Federal Trade Commission’s current views about environmental claims. The guides help marketers [and companies] avoid making environmental marketing claims that are unfair or deceptive….” The updates to the Green Guide could prove to be significant, as the Guide was last updated in 2012, long before issues such as ESG, PFAS and emerging chemicals were at the forefront of corporate, investment world and insurer attention. Updates to the guide, however, could have significant impacts on how companies promote and market their products, and non-compliance with the Green Guide can have significant financial consequences for a company.
Green energy companies seeking sites for windfarm and solar power plant development in Illinois are targeting industrially zoned settings, such as land around active and abandoned coal mines and oil fields. When considering siting decisions, companies can rely on the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) to provide extensive databases and maps on the state’s geologic and mine information to save potential trouble with collapsed land.
Energy companies look for sites with preexisting industrial-scale electric hookups or, in the case of active mines, onsite electrical demands to save time and money.
“Changing zoning designations, whether urban or rural, is a time-intensive and expensive process, so already industrially zoned locations are enticing,” said Scott Elrick, ISGS geologist. “This also requires a thorough understanding of the underlying geology, including geologic hazards, potential subsurface environmental concerns, and the potential for preexisting subsurface infrastructure such as mined out areas and abandoned oil wells.”
Mine subsidence is a concern in Illinois. Before building a multi-ton infrastructure, companies want to ensure that buildings won’t crack as the land sinks. ISGS staff have received an increasing number of requests for detailed information about mines in specific locations.
“You can’t make sweeping declarations like if there is 4 feet of limestone, you’re safe,” Elrick said. “Yet the data can help guide decisions and the understanding of various factors that can contribute to mine subsidence.”
For 100 years, ISGS geologists have surveyed mines and collected information for the ILMINES database. A part of the effort has been verifying current mine maps with historical ones. There are ways to confirm recent maps, but historical maps can be questionable the further back they go, Elrick said. Sometimes, all that’s shown is the shaft entrance leading to the mine.
With mine production information, sometimes geologists can estimate how far they’ve gone underground.
“I’m proud of the fact that we’ve put in the effort to fact check and double check the maps and information,” Elrick said. “Not everyone can do that. Because of this, we have really high-quality products.”
ISGS geologists are also working on a companion mined out area wiki site co-funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois Mine Subsidence Insurance Fund, and Illinois Department of Natural Resources – Office of Mines and Minerals. When the project is finished, the information will be a compilation of “everything that has been known about coal mines in Illinois,” Elrick said.
In order to make the plastics value chain truly circular, it’s crucial that the industry is able to measure the level of recycled content in packs accurately and efficiently. Researchers from Manchester University in the UK are currently developing a technology that uses tracking molecules for identifying, quantifying and validating recycled content in plastics and plastic packaging. We spoke with Prof. Mike Shaver, who is leading the project, to find out more.
Women have always been on the forefront of science. From Ada Lovelace designing the first computer programs, to Rosalind Franklin decoding the structure of DNA, to Katherine Johnson figuring out the physics for mankind to reach the moon, the history of science has been driven by the contributions of women. However, they have often not received proper credit or acknowledgement for their essential work.
This is why today we are thrilled to announce a new phase in our long-term collaboration between the Smithsonian and Google Arts & Culture. Together, we’ve developed new machine learning tools for use by curators at the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative as we dive into the institution’s archives to help uncover and highlight the many roles women have played in science over more than 174 years of history.