EPA Honors Winners of the 2017 Green Chemistry Challenge Awards

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is recognizing landmark green chemistry technologies developed by industrial pioneers and leading scientists that turn potential environmental issues into business opportunities, spurring innovation and economic development.

“We congratulate those who bring innovative solutions that will help solve problems and help American businesses,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “These innovations encourage smart and safe practices, while cutting manufacturing costs and sparking investments. Ultimately, these manufacturing processes and products spur economic growth and are safer for health and the environment.”

The Green Chemistry Challenge Award winners will be honored on June 12 at a ceremony in Washington, DC. The winners and their innovative technologies are:

  • Professor Eric Schelter, University of Pennsylvania, for developing a simple, fast, and low-cost technology to help recycle mixtures of rare earth elements. Reducing the costs to recover these materials creates economic opportunity by turning a waste stream, currently only recycled at a rate of 1%, into a potential revenue stream. About 17,000 metric tons of rare earth oxides are used in the U.S. annually in materials such as wind turbines, catalysts, lighting phosphors, electric motors, batteries, cell phones, and many others. Mining, refining, and purification of rare earths are extraordinarily energy and waste intensive and carry a significant environmental burden.
  • Dow Chemical Company, Collegeville, Pennsylvania, in partnership with Papierfabrik August Koehler SE, Germany, for developing a thermal printing paper that eliminates the need for chemicals used to create an image, such as bisphenol A (BPA) or bisphenol S (BPS). Thermal paper is used broadly throughout the world for cash register receipts, tickets, tags, and labels. This technology reduces costs by creating records that do not fade, even under severe sunlight, allowing the original document to be preserved for long term storage. The paper is compatible with thermal printers currently in commercial use around the world.
  • Merck Research Laboratories, Rahway, New Jersey, for successfully applying green chemistry design principles to Letermovir, an antiviral drug candidate, that is currently in phase III clinical trials. The improvements to the way the drug is made, including use of a better chemical catalyst, increases the overall yield by more than 60%, reduces raw material costs by 93%, and reduces water usage by 90%.
  • Amgen Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, in partnership with Bachem, Switzerland, for improving the process used to manufacture the active ingredient in ParsabivTM, a drug for the treatment of secondary hyperparathyroidism in adult patients with chronic kidney disease. This improved peptide manufacturing process reduces chemical solvent use by 71%, manufacturing operating time by 56%, and manufacturing cost by 76%. These innovations could increase profits and eliminate 1,440 cubic meters of waste or more, including over 750 cubic meters of aqueous waste annually.
  • UniEnergy Technologies, LLC (UET), Mukilteo, Washington, in partnership with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), for an advanced vanadium redox flow battery, originally developed at the PNNL and commercialized by UET. The battery, when used by utility, commercial and industrial customers, allows cities and businesses more access to stored energy. It also lasts longer and works in a broad temperature range with one-fifth the footprint of previous flow battery technologies. The electrolyte is water-based and does not degrade, and the batteries are non-flammable and recyclable, thus helping meet the increasing demand of electrical energy storage in the electrical power market, from generation, transmission, and distribution to the end users of electricity.

During the 22 years of the program, EPA has received more than 1600 nominations and presented awards to 114 technologies that spur economic growth, reduce costs, and decrease waste. The agency estimates winning technologies are responsible for annually reducing the use or generation of more than 826 million pounds of hazardous chemicals, saving 21 billion gallons of water, and eliminating 7.8 billion pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent releases to air.

An independent panel of technical experts convened by the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute formally judged the 2017 submissions from among scores of nominated technologies and made recommendations to EPA for the 2017 winners. The 2017 awards event will be held in conjunction with the 21st Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference.

More information: www.epa.gov/greenchemistry

Regulatory Developments: New Approaches to EPA in Managing New Chemical Polymers

Read the full story in the National Law Journal.

One of the consequences of the new Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is the need for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review and make determinations under Section 5(a)(3)(B) on premanufacture notification (PMN) chemicals submitted to EPA, and then to take required actions.  These requirements raise particular and sometimes challenging issues for new chemical polymers because the way polymers are identified allows for multiple different forms of the polymer to be manufactured.  Thus, while the chemical notifier may intend to manufacture a polymer that does not present hazard or risk concerns, because the same cannot be said of other forms of the polymer that could be made (e.g., at a lower molecular weight or with a higher content of reactive functional groups), EPA saw the need to regulate the new polymer to meet the new law’s requirements, including regulating “to the extent necessary” to protect against unreasonable risk.

This is an important issue under Section 5 given that approximately 60 percent of the PMN chemicals submitted under old TSCA were polymers; historically, EPA saw the need to regulate relatively few new polymers based on the polymer intended to be manufactured.  Using Section 5(e) consent orders and/or Significant New Use Rules (SNUR) to regulate so many polymers would have numerous drawbacks, including the significant burden required in developing, enforcing, and complying with the new regulations as well as slowing down the introduction of polymers that are of low regulatory concern when manufactured as intended.  Recognizing that over-regulating “safe” polymers will be a problem for many stakeholders, Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.’s (B&C®) Charles M. Auer, Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., and Oscar Hernandez, Ph.D., all former Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) employees with decades of EPA experience in reviewing and regulating new chemicals, developed and shared with EPA flexible approaches to getting at and resolving the issues that were presented by new polymer cases.

EPA ‘Safer Choice’ Label Program, Criteria Under Fire

Read the full story in BNA’s Daily Environment Report.

Does a detergent that Procter & Gamble Co. makes merit a ‘safer’ label designation? The issue has re-ignited a debate among trade association executives over the type of analysis needed to justify such labels.

A more sustainable way to refine metals

Read the full story from McGill University.

A team of chemists in Canada has developed a way to process metals without using toxic solvents and reagents. The system, which also consumes far less energy than conventional techniques, could greatly shrink the environmental impact of producing metals from raw materials or from post-consumer electronics.

Living in a Materials World: Four Northwestern entrepreneurs bring sustainability and energy solutions to market

Read the full story from Northwestern University.

As the world has continued to move toward clean energy, so has Northwestern’s materials science program, which is increasingly focused on sustainable materials design. The University has helped launch several companies with the goal of creating innovative energy solutions by designing and developing better materials with less energetic requirements. By bringing innovative materials to the market, these startups are creating disruptive technologies for electric car makers, produce shippers, battery manufacturers, and more.

Reazzo delivers a green f looring alternative

Read the full story at Daily Commercial News.

In 2010 Antex Western was remodelling its head office in Winnipeg and hoping to divert 100 per cent of its construction waste from landfill when the commercial contractor’s hard surfaces manager, Sal Maida, suggested processing waste into aggregates, and then mixing it with cement to create the floor topping for the new office.

Understanding nature helps unlock the potential of nanomaterials through cheaper, greener and safer methods

Read the full post from the American Chemical Society.

Nanosilicas have the potential to solve a number of pressing industrial issues, but are locked away because of wasteful and prohibitively expensive synthesis conditions. By contrast, nature produces far more complex silica under ambient conditions. By combining natural silica with computer simulations, we have discovered a method to produce green nanosilica, unlocking their industrial potential once and for all.