British industry seeks positive review of green taxes

The CBI, previously known as the Confederation of British Industry and one of the largest industry lobbying organizations in that country, is today asking the UK government to undertake a review to make environmental taxes work better.

Subtitled “making environmental taxes work for business”, the CBI’s report emphasizes that “Environmental taxes have the potential to play an important role in unlocking business investment, which is needed to drive private sector growth and tackle environmental impacts.” Furthermore, the CBI states clearly that “it is clear that business supports the use of well designed environmental taxation.”

The report reviews the various environmental taxes currently in use in the UK, including

  • Landfill Tax
  • Vehicle Excise Duty
  • Climate Change Levy
  • Renewables Obligation
  • Fuel Duty
  • Aggregates Levy
  • Air Passenger Duty
  • Carbon Reduction Commitment

and reviews business aspects of each. The CBI argues that environmental taxes should:

  1. Have a clear purpose and definition: The government must be clear and precise about the environmental objective of a tax and how this relates to its role in raising revenue.
  2. Take strategic fit into account: The tax must be carefully designed to complement existing policy instruments. Policy overlap should be avoided.
  3. Be designed with simplicity at their core: Environmental taxes must be sufficiently simple to understand and implement. Visibility is required but not at the expense of burdensome compliance.
  4. Offer comprehensive communication and advice: Government should consult thoroughly on all environmental tax changes.
  5. Provide certainty to businesses: New taxes, and changes to existing taxes, must be introduced with sufficient lead-in times. Rates should be set as far in advance as possible, or an end outcome should be specified.
  6. Ensure a strong on-going justification: Monitoring taxes post-introduction is important to confirm that a tax is still having the originally intended effect.

Specific environmental tax recommendations are included in the report.

The press release and report can be found at http://www.cbi.org.uk/media-centre/press-releases/2012/06/cbi-calls-on-government-to-commission-independent-review-of-environmental-taxes/

Bank of America adds to its green lending

This week, Bank of America, the second largest bank holding company in the United States, announced a 10-year, $50 billion environmental business goal to help address climate change, reduce demands on natural resources and advance lower-carbon economic solutions. The company also introduced significant new goals to reduce the environmental impact of its own operations. Bank of America has assets in excess of two trillion dollars.

The new goal, effective Jan. 1, 2013, follows the anticipated completion of the company’s current 10-year, $20 billion environmental business initiative – a program that is more than four years ahead of schedule.

The new initiative will consist primarily of lending, equipment finance, capital markets and advisory activity, carbon finance, and advice and investment solutions for clients. The areas of focus include:

  • Energy efficiency – in residential, commercial, and public properties, as well as supporting the full supply chain that drives energy efficiency.
  • Renewable energy and energy infrastructure – including wind, solar, hydro, biomass and waste-to-energy solutions and their upstream and downstream supply chains, as well as smart grid, large-scale energy storage and other important infrastructures.
  • Transportation – including certain lower carbon forms of transport such as electric and hybrid electric vehicles, batteries/fuel cells and sustainable bio-fuels, as well as developing local and regional charging infrastructure to support the growth of new hybrid vehicle technologies.
  • Water and waste – focusing on innovative new technologies and infrastructure development, including water purification and waste disposal and recycling.

The bank also announced a goal to provide $100 million in grants and program-related investments to nonprofit organizations, community development financial institutions and other non-governmental organizations promoting low-carbon and resource conservation solutions.

In internal operations, the Bank also announced the following new environmental goals to be achieved by 2015:

  • 25 percent reduction in energy consumption from 2004 – equal to eliminating 1.2 million megawatt hours of annual energy use
  • 20 percent reduction in paper consumption (2010 baseline); paper used will:
    • Contain 20 percent post-consumer recycled content.
    • Be sourced entirely from certified forests.
  • 20 percent reduction in global water consumption (2010 baseline).
  • 70 percent diversion of global waste from landfill.
    • All electronic waste streams to be disposed of using certified, responsible vendors.

More information is available at http://mediaroom.bankofamerica.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=234503&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1704140

Researchers find human health effects from exposure to nanoparticles

Research by scientists at Trinity College Dublin has found that exposure to nanoparticles can have a serious impact on health, linking it to rheumatoid arthritis and the development of other serious autoimmune diseases.

The evaluation researched the effect of nanoparticle silicon dioxide, carbon black and singlewalled carbon nanotubes on mice and on human cells from the lining of airway passages. According to the scientists the result was clear and convincing: all types of nanoparticles caused an identical response in human cells and in the lungs of mice, manifesting in transformation of the amino acid arginine into a substance called citrulline which can lead to the development of autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.

A press release describing the results of the research, led by a team at Trinity College, Dublin, and co-authored with US researchers, can be found at http://www.tcd.ie/Communications/news/pressreleases/pressRelease.php?headerID=2524&pressRelease. The press release contains a link to the published article in the peer-reviewed journal Nanomedicine.

Major companies announce bioplastics initiative

The Coca-Cola Company, Ford Motor Company, H.J. Heinz Company, NIKE, Inc. and Procter & Gamble have announced the formation of an organization to be known as the Plant PET Technology Collaborative (PTC). PTC will focus on accelerating the development and use of 100% plant-based PET materials and fiber in their products. PET, also known as polyethylene terephthalate, is most commonly recognized as the clear plastic material from which many water and beverage bottles are made but it is the same material as polyester fibre used for such items as clothing, footwear, and carpets.

Coca-Cola is currently using PET with up to 30% plant-based material in its own beverage packaging. Heinz has indicated that it will license the technology for some of its ketchup bottles. According to Coca-Cola, the plant-based component in its current bottles comes from ethanol from Brazilian sugarcane.

GallonDaily sees plant-based plastics as having a significant role and environmental benefit but only within limits. At production levels likely to be implemented within the next decade there is likely enough land that food production will not be threatened by biofuel and bioplastic production. Beyond that, however, constraints in the availability of agricultural land mean that we cannot replace all petroleum plastics used today with bioplastics. GallonDaily also wonders about the environmental efficiency of producing bioethanol as a raw material for bioplastics. Hopefully future research will find ways of converting biomass directly to plastic precursors without having to go through the highly energy intensive ethanol production process.

In view of the risks that plant-based plastics present, especially the risks that their energy-intensity could exceed that of conventional plastics and that food land and biodiversity could be threatened by conversion to land for plastics production, GallonDaily suggests to the Plant PET Technology Collaborative that it help establish a fully independent monitoring agency to report to the public on the actual environmental footprint of plant plastics and their impact on the planet’s ecosystems.

Bioplastics do not replace reduction and recycling as environmentally preferred options but bioplastics may help to reduce society’s environmental footprint in the short term. Fortunately the plant-based PET material that Coca-Cola has developed is chemically identical to PET from petroleum resources so the two can be collected and recycled together. Better recycling must remain a core objective of reducing our environmental footprint.

For more information about the Plant PET Technology Collaborative, the Coca-Cola press release can be found at http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com/dynamic/press_center/2012/06/pet-collaborative.html. More information about Coca-Cola’s PlantBottle is at http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com/citizenship/plantbottle.html

Large private sector waste operator adopts sustainability commitments

Veolia Environnement is a global company specializing in waste management and resource recovery. The company provides municipal and industrial clients with services which include waste collection, pipe system management, and waste treatment, recovery and recycling solutions. The Company has recently announced that it seeks to set the standard in sustainable development performance. The Company’s commitments include:

Commitment 1: Prevent pollution

  • Analyze the environmental risks at a minimum of 95% of sites and implement prevention action plans;
  • Ensure 95% sites are certified ISO 14001 or covered by an Environmental Management System (EMS).

Commitment 2: Conserve natural resources

  • Achieve an overall material recovery rate of 30%;
  • Compared with 2011, increase by 10% the production of renewable energy from waste;
  • Apply water consumption reduction plans at a minimum of 80% of sites;
  • Implement energy efficiency plans at a minimum of 80% of sites.

Commitment 3: Protect biodiversity

  • Carry out an evaluation and implement an action plan at 95% of sites with significant potential stakes and opportunities on Biodiversity;
  • Include a biodiversity impact evaluation in 100% of our development projects;
  • Implement conservation plans in the six main countries where we operate.

Commitment 4: Combat climate change

  • Achieve an overall methane capture rate of 70%, the component in biogas that has the highest greenhouse effect;
  • Calculate the carbon footprint of 95% of our business units and implement emission reduction plans.

Commitment 5: Environmental awareness and training

  • Provide environmental training to at least 90% of our employees;
  • Train our sales teams in the company’s environmental themes and raise our customers’ awareness;
  • Increase the proportion of our supplier contracts that include environmental requirements.

Given the specificity of some of theses commitment, Veolia Environnement seems set to challenge some of its competitors in the area of environmental performance.

Details are at http://www.veolia.com/en/medias/press-releases/veolia-environmental-services-commitments-environment.htm

New World Bank Green, Clean, Resilient strategy involves private sector

This week the World Bank released its new environment strategy for the decade 2012 – 2022. Among many new introductions, the strategy foresees a much greater role for the private sector in  poverty reduction and development in an increasingly fragile global environment.

The World Bank vision statement is A Green, Clean and Resilient World for All. From this Vision Statement, the Bank explains:

  • Green where natural resources are sustainably managed and conserved to improve livelihoods and ensure food security;
  • Clean in which cleaner air, water and oceans enable people to lead healthy, productive lives and where development strategies emphasize low-emission, climate-smart transport, energy, agriculture and urban development;
  • Resilient in which countries are better prepared for shocks and less vulnerable to natural disasters, volatile weather patterns and other impacts of climate change.

The 100-page report, which comes with a moderately detailed implementation strategy, can be found through a link at the bottom of the press release on http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/NEWS/0,,contentMDK:23210525~pagePK:34370~piPK:34424~theSitePK:4607,00.html

 

Report: anaerobic digestion preferable for Haiti

A waste to energy opportunity analysis for Haiti, published last Fall by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory, provides a useful framework for evaluating waste to energy opportunities not only in developing countries but also in communities around the world.

The analysis was conducted with full recognition that improving management of waste materials is essential for the economic renewal of Haiti. The analysis recommends against mass burn waste to energy plants and supports both local and larger scale bio-digesters which would produce heating and cooking gas from waste materials as well as a soil amendment useful to Haiti’s agriculture. Financial analysis of the proposed system indicates a positive net present value (NPV) in all scenarios. Waste in Haiti contains a much higher percentage of organics than waste in North America and would not perform efficiently in a combustion or gasification system.

GallonDaily notes that the report provides a useful methodology for evaluating waste management options and may highlight a business opportunity in developing countries for manufacturers, installers and operators of anaerobic digestion systems as well as those who provide training in operation of such technology.

The NREL report is available at http://www.haitiregeneration.org/sites/hri7/files/attached_files/Haiti_Waste-to-Energy_Final_Nov-14-2010.pdf

Harmful substances in personal care products?

Environmental Health Perspectives is one of the better peer-reviewed environmental science journals around but even so it is unusual for GallonDaily to highlight several EHP articles in a row. This month, however, it seems that this is the way the cookie crumbles.

An article in EHP last week asks the question Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products in the Environment: What are the Big Questions? Prepared by a large team of scientists, including some Canadians and two from Environment Canada, the article answers the question as follows:

  • What approaches should be used to prioritize PPCPs for research on environmental and human health exposure and effects?
  • What are the environmental exposure pathways for organisms (including humans) to PPCPs in the environment and are any of these missed in current risk assessment approaches?
  • How can the uptake of ionizable PPCPs into aquatic and terrestrial organisms and through food chains be predicted?
  • What is the bioavailability of non-extractable residues of PPCPs?
  • How can pharmaceutical preclinical and clinical information be used to assess the potential for adverse environmental impacts of pharmaceuticals?
  • What can be learned about the evolutionary conservation of PPCP targets across species and life stages in the context of potential adverse outcomes and effects?
  • How can ecotoxicological responses, such as histological and molecular-level responses, observed for PPCPs, be translated to traditional ecologically important endpoints such as survival, growth and reproduction of a species?
  • How can ecotoxicity test methods, which reflect the different modes of actions of active PPCPs, be developed and implemented in customized risk assessment strategies?
  • How can effects from long-term exposure to low concentrations of PPCP mixtures on nontarget organisms be assessed?
  • Can non-animal testing methods be developed that will provide equivalent or better hazard data compared to current in vivo methods?
  • How can regions where PPCPs pose the greatest risk to environmental and human health, either now or in the future, be identified?
  • How important are PPCPs relative to other chemicals and non-chemical stressors in terms of biological impacts in the natural environment?
  • Do PPCPs pose a risk to wildlife such as mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians?
  • How can the environmental risks of metabolites and environmental transformation products of PPCPs be assessed?
  • How can data on the occurrence of PPCPs in the environment and on quality of ecosystems exposed to PPCPs be used to determine whether current regulatory risk assessment schemes are effective?
  • Does environmental exposure to PPCP residues result in the selection of antimicrobial resistant micro-organisms and is this important in terms of human health outcomes?
  • How can the risks to human health, arising from antibiotic resistance selection by PPCPs in the natural environment, be assessed?
  • If a PPCP has an adverse environmental risk profile what can be done to manage and mitigate the risks?
  • What effluent treatment methods are effective in reducing the effects of PPCPs in the environment while at the same time not increasing the toxicity of whole effluents?
  • How can the efficacy of risk management approaches be assessed?

Regular readers of GallonDaily and its partner policy periodical Gallon Environment Letter may not be surprised that all of these questions share an essentially  common answer: We don’t know!

For more details view the abstract at http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/fetchArticle.action?articleURI=info%3Adoi%2F10.1289%2Fehp.1104477 and the full article by clicking on Download.

Review of Packaging & Public Health

Environmental Health Perspectives has published a detailed and, in GallonDaily’s opinion, a balanced review of the potential health impacts of consumer packaging authored by a professor of preventive medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

The paper describes the benefits of consumer packaging as well as the potential chemical exposures from packaging. These latter include:

  • lead from glass
  • phthalates from PVC gaskets on the lids of glass bottles
  • phthalates from printing inks in recycled paper packaging
  • methylnaphthalene from coated paper in cereal boxes
  • BPA in can linings
  • adipates in PVC cling wrap

The author points out that “It is difficult to estimate the risk of chronic ingestion of contaminants from food packaging, as so little is known. It is even more difficult, at this point, to estimate any public-health impact that might result from that ingestion or to weigh the potential negative impacts against the known benefits related to reduced spoilage and microbial contamination.” The paper also quotes Koni Grob and colleagues of the Official Food Control Authority of Canton of Zürich, Switzerland, as stating  “While pesticides are thoroughly evaluated and well controlled in their use, only a small fraction of the substances migrating from food packaging have been evaluated—less than fifteen hundred—and the majority have not even been identified. If fifty to a hundred thousand substances migrate [from packaging into foods] at levels sometimes exceeding the threshold of toxicological concern, and if one out of a hundred substances harms our health, this is likely to cause serious damage.”

The paper, which GallonDaily recommends to anyone interested in packaging, is available at http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/fetchArticle.action?articleURI=info%3Adoi%2F10.1289%2Fehp.120-a232

Brominated fire retardants in food

The more scientists look for environmental contaminants in our food the more they find. The latest research to be published reports significant levels of the brominated fire retardant hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) in fatty foods (peanut butter, poultry, fish and beef) purchased from supermarkets in Texas. HBCD is used in polystyrene foam in insulation and electrical equipment. Human effects of HBCD include alterations in immune and reproductive systems, neurotoxicity, and endocrine disruption, and the substance is among those that have been found in human tissue.

This paper adds to the evidence that the food supply is a significant source of HBCD in humans. The authors suggest that HBCD contamination of the US food supply is currently occurring and they recommend that larger and more representative sampling should be conducted. Future studies should quantify to what extent U.S. foods are contaminated, estimate the toxicity of each of the HBCD stereoisomers, and fully elucidate the mechanisms of the movement of HBCD in biota and the environment.

The paper, published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives, published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, may be found in abstract at http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/fetchArticle.action?articleURI=info%3Adoi%2F10.1289%2Fehp.1204993#Ahead of Print (AOP) . The full article is available by clicking on one of the Download options.