Walmart to phase out chemicals in cosmetics and household products.

Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, announced on Thursday a new initiative to eliminate certain chemicals of concern in cosmetics and household products. The company will also expand ingredient disclosure and begin to label its own brand of cleaning products using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Design for Environment (DfE) guidelines.

Under its “Policy on Sustainable Chemistry in Consumables,” [PDF] Walmart will work with suppliers to phase out an initial list of ten “priority” substances. Walmart will not disclose the list of substances until it has further discussed the new policy with suppliers, said the company’s senior vice president for sustainability, Andrea Thomas. However, Thomas said the list was developed with input from suppliers, academics, nonprofits, and the EPA, and that the chemicals were chosen based on their use in products, potential impact, and the availability of viable alternatives. In order to ensure that any replacement chemicals comply with established “green chemistry” requirements, Walmart is requiring its suppliers to use a tool called GreenWERCS, which Walmart developed with the help of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and other public health groups in 2009.

Beginning in 2014, Walmart will start monitoring progress of its new policy, and will also begin to identify some its private brand cleaning products for inclusion in the DfE labeling program. Beginning in 2015, the policy will require suppliers to provide public online ingredient disclosure for products in the categories covered. By 2018, any products still containing “priority” chemicals on Walmart’s list—which will be regularly reviewed to see if additional chemicals should be prioritized—will have to disclose these ingredients on package labels.

Consumer and environmental health advocates welcomed the initiative, which many said was the first chemical policy of this scope by a global retailer. Over the past several years, major Walmart suppliers like SC Johnson, Johnson and Johnson and Procter & Gamble have taken steps to phase out hazardous chemicals. However, as the world’s largest retailer, Walmart’s policy has the most significant potential to encourage large companies to use safer chemicals in their products.

Verdant Proudly Sponsors Prop.65 Clearinghouse's Green Chemistry Conference

Green Chemistry:

Verdant is pleased to announce its sponsorship of the Prop.65 Clearinghouse Green Chemistry Annual Conference.  This year’s conference will be held on Tuesday, April 9, 2013, at the The City Club of San Francisco, 155 Sansome Street.

  • Verdant attorney, Philip Moffat, will present on “REACH 2013.”
  • Verdant attorney, Catherine Lin, will present on “Supply Chain Management.”

More information about the conference is available here and an agenda is available here.   A copy of Mr. Moffat’s presentation is available here [PDF].

CIEL Report Claims Regulation Stimulates Chemical Innovation

Chemical Regulation/Innovation:

Earlier this month, the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) released its report, Driving Innovation: How stronger laws help bring safer chemicals to market.  In the report, CIEL offers research showing that stronger laws foster innovation by large and small companies alike.  Among other things,CIEL cites the number of patents for alternative chemicals filed every time there’s new chemical regulation. CIEL is located in Washington, D.C. and Geneva, Switzerland.  More information about CIEL is available here.

Forbes magazine recently published an article on this same topic, citing the CIEL report among other sources.  That article is available here.

What do others think of this conclusion?

EU Commission Releases Roadmap on Substances of Very High Concern

EU REACH Substances of Very High Concern:

Last week, the EU Commission released its Roadmap on Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC). The Roadmap outlines a process for identifying and assessing potential SVHCs within the following categories: substances that are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction (CMRs); substances that are persistent, bioaccumulative or toxic for the environment (PBTs); substances that are very persistent and very bioaccumulative (vPvBs); and substances of equivalent concern, such as endocrine disruptors. The Roadmap estimates that the process will evaluate up to 440 substances, a far lower number than the 1,900 substances originally anticipated, with an initial goal of completing 80 assessments by the end of 2014.

The Roadmap follows the Commission’s commitment to compile a comprehensive REACH candidate list of SVHCs and is designed to help meet the Commission’s plan to include all currently known SVHCs on the candidate list by 2020.

The SVHC Roadmap proposes first screening substances with REACH registration dossiers by applying a minimum quantity threshold and generally exempting substances registered only for intermediate uses. The second step entails conducting a “Risk Management Options” (RMO) analysis. Under this approach, the best regulatory option to manage a particular risk is chosen after considering actions available within REACH (like imposing authorization, restriction or substance evaluation requirements) or under other legislative schemes, such as RoHS. For example, the Roadmap suggests that substances with demonstrated risk should be restricted under REACH.

The roadmap is downloadable as a PDF from the EU website.

Upcoming Public Hearing on California's Draft Green Chemistry Regulations

California Green Chemistry Regulations:

California EPA and DTSC have announced a public meeting on the draft regulations.  The meeting will occur on Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 9:00 a.m.

See announcement embedded below.

CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY COUNCIL

NOTICE OF PUBLIC MEETING

Department of Toxic Substances Control’s

Safer Consumer Products Proposed Regulations

Need for a Multimedia Evaluation

The Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) will convene a public meeting of the California Environmental Policy Council (CEPC) to consider the need for a multimedia evaluation of the Safer Consumer Products regulations proposed by the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). The public meeting will commence as follows:

Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 9:00 a.m.

2ndFloor – Sierra Hearing Room

Joe Serna, Jr. Cal/EPA Building

1001 “I” Street, Second Floor

Sacramento, California

At the public meeting, the CEPC will consider the DTSC staff report on the Need for a Multimedia Evaluation of the Safer Consumer Products Regulations. Based on the report and public comments, the CEPC will determine whether or not DTSC’s proposed regulations will have a significant adverse impact on public health or the environment.  The public comments made in this public meeting should be primarily focused on the recommendation contained in the DTSC report.

Persons interested in commenting on the DTSC Safer Consumer Products regulations must do so by sending their comments directly to DTSC as part of the rulemaking process,  by email to gcregs@dtsc.ca.gov, fax (916) 323-5542, or by mail to:

Department of Toxic Substances Control

Regulations Section

PO Box 806

Sacramento, CA 95812-0806

For further details or for a copy of the report, please visit Cal/EPA’s website at: http://www.calepa.ca.gov/Cepc/

 

 

DTSC Requests Public Comment on Another Draft of the Green Chemistry Regulations

California Green Chemistry Regulations:

The saga of California’s nascent Green Chemistry program continues. Last week, the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) released the revised text (PDF) of its proposed Safer Consumer Product Regulations. The comment period for the revisions started on January 29 and closes on February 28, 2013.

Notably, the revised rules significantly pare down the list of potential Chemicals of Concern (COCs), which are now referred to as “Candidate Chemicals,” from over 3,000 to approximately 1,200. The Candidate Chemicals  are drawn from lists of substances which exhibit one or more hazard trait. The revisions also clarify that the list of Priority Products to be regulated will be developed and updated through the Administrative Procedure Act rulemaking process.

In addition, DTSC modified the applicability of upfront exemptions for certain products, providing an exemption for products already regulated by other laws that provide comparable health and environmental protections. However, products which are manufactured, stored, or transported through California solely for use outside of the state, or used in California solely for the manufacture of non-consumer products will no longer be exempted, although these factors will be considered in the product prioritization process.

Requirements for the certification and accreditation of assessors involved in developing Alternatives Analyses (AA) have been relaxed in favor of a public review and comment process for AA reports, a choice that seems likely to increase the administrative burden and place confidential business information at greater risk. The scope of evaluating economic impacts for AA reports has also been limited to “a monetized comparison of public health and environmental costs, and costs to governmental agencies and nonprofit organizations that manage waste, oversee environmental cleanup and restoration efforts, and/or are charged with protecting natural resources, water quality, and wildlife.”

Finally, DTSC’s ability to make regulatory responses has been further refined and clarified. For example, the revised proposal requires DTSC to provide notice (with accompanying public comment period) of its proposed regulatory response determination no later than 90 days after it issues a notice of compliance or disapproval for a submitted AA report. The revised proposal also limits the agency’s ability to impose certain regulatory responses on manufacturers only, and not on retailers or importers.

More details on the revised proposed regulations, including how to submit comments and a comprehensive summary of changes from the agency’s last proposal, are available on the DTSC’s website.

Global Mercury Reduction Treaty Finalized

UN/Mercury:

Last week in Geneva, Switzerland, over 140 countries finalized the first global mercury reduction treaty, the Minamata Convention on Mercury. The treaty follows four years of negotiations among national environment ministers.

The Convention is named in honor of Minamata, the Japanese city which suffered severe public health effects from mercury pollution over 50 years ago, and where the diplomatic ceremony and official signing of the treaty will take place in October.

The Minamata Convention commits countries to reducing mercury in two main ways: (1) by phasing out its use in products and (2) by requiring new coal-fired power plants to employ the best available technology to cut mercury emissions. By 2020, manufacturing and trading in “mercury-added” products – like batteries (except ‘button cell’ batteries used in implantable medical devices); switches and relays; certain types of light bulbs; and soaps and cosmetics – will be banned. Other provisions of the treaty include phasing out primary mercury mining and restricting trade on mercury from decommissioning chlor-alkali plants.

Critics such as environmental NGOs have already found fault with the Convention’s lenient approach to existing coal plants and artisanal small-scale gold mining, the two largest global sources of mercury emissions. Under the Convention, countries where artisanal small-scale gold mining is practiced have within three years of the treaty entering into force to implement action plans to reduce mercury use in mining, but the treaty does not provide for an enforcement mechanism. Likewise, decisions on triggering thresholds for existing mercury-emitting facilities have been deferred until the first meeting of the treaty after it comes into force. Negotiators also agreed to funding mechanisms to assist developing countries implement the Convention and support capacity-building and technical assistance.

International Negotiations on Mercury Treaty

UN/Mercury:

International negotiators in Geneva for the fifth and final Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee (“INC 5”) hope to complete a mercury reduction treaty by the end of this week, although officials warn that difficult issues remain to be resolved. Delegates from over 130 countries are expected to establish the first international legal instrument with enforceable limits on mercury emissions.

The negotiators must still determine issues including: the selection of products and processes containing mercury to be phased out; the deadline for such phase-outs; whether to adopt a complete ban on primary mercury mining; and programs for financial assistance, technology transfer, and capacity-building.

A draft text of the treaty provides for regulation of the supply and trade in mercury, as well as its use in products and processes. The draft also addresses how to: reduce mercury emissions from power plants and metal production facilities; safely store and treat waste containing mercury; and identify and evaluate contaminated sites.

A joint proposal submitted by the EU, Japan, and Jamaica would phase out mercury in products like fluorescent lamps, pesticides, and cosmetics by 2018, with a later phase-out of 2020 for batteries and measuring devices. The joint proposal also calls for phasing out mercury in the production of chlor-alkali, polyurethane, and acetaldehyde by 2018 to 2025.

Negotiators are still considering a ban on the export and sale of mercury from countries with primary mercury mining. Delegates have already reached a compromise on the use of mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining (“ASGM”), which recently surpassed coal burning as the major source of global mercury emissions. Under the deal, countries could continue to import mercury for ASGM if they develop national action plans to reduce mercury emissions. In addition, the draft treaty permits the continued use of mercury in producing vinyl chloride monomer (“VCM”), an intermediary chemical used in manufacturing PVC plastic.

In the run-up to the conference, UNEP released two reports warning of the growing environmental and health risks of mercury exposure. The reports present estimates and trends of mercury contamination; for example, in the past century, mercury levels have doubled in the top 100 meters of the world’s oceans. UNEP argues that a global reduction treaty would reduce health problems linked to mercury, including neurological and behavioral disorders.