2012 EPA Research Progress Report
Promoting Chemical Sustainability
There is no doubt that chemicals can make our lives easier. They are ubiquitous in our medicines, the cleaning and disinfection products we use to clean our homes and workplaces, and used throughout industry to make the many products we use and enjoy every day. What would be even better would be to continue to enjoy these multiple benefits with minimal or no negative impacts to human health and the environment.
Together with its partners, EPA is exploring how to incorporate the concepts of sustainability to advance the design of new, innovative, “green” products made of safer substances and manufactured with more efficient, clean processes.
In September 2012, EPA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to collaborate to help steer more chemical research toward advancing sustainability. In December, EPA and the National Science Foundation released two requests for applications (RFA) to support innovative research projects investigating ways to use benign, more natural materials in developing chemicals for use in everyday products.
The RFAs seek to fund innovative chemical safety research focused on two distinct areas: (1) sustainable, safe alternatives to existing chemicals, and (2) assessments looking at the entire life cycle of chemicals, from production to disposal.
In addition to the partnership with NSF, EPA’s own scientists continued to advance chemical sustainability throughout 2012. One example is Greenscope, a six-year-effort that has identified and ranked 139 separate indicators of the chemical manufacturing processes on a “sustainability scale” from 0 to 100 percent sustainable.
In order to test Greenscope, researchers devised a computer model of a hypothetical biodiesel facility that included all the manufacturing processes and sustainability indicators. A published case study on the model illustrated how they were able to assess the sustainability of the plant. Also, in February 2012, EPA signed an MOU with Procter and Gamble (P&G) to develop sustainability measures for its supply chain management system, and possibly deploy Greenscope at P&G facilities in the future.