EU advances policies on nanomaterials

The EU has issued a new working paper on types and uses of nanomaterials, including a discussion of safety aspects, and has simultaneously announced plans to improve the regulation of nanomaterials. In brief, the EU has concluded that nanomaterials must be regulated individually, in the way that other chemicals are regulated, and cannot be considered as a single class of chemicals.

Europe considers a material to be a nanomaterial when it contains 50% or more of particles with external dimensions is in the size range 1 nm to 100 nm (one nanometre is ten to the minus nine metres, formerly known as a millimicron). The total annual quantity of nanomaterials on the market at the global level is estimated at around 11 million tonnes, with a market value of roughly $26 billion. Carbon black and amorphous silica represent by far the largest volume of nanomaterials currently on the market. The group of materials currently attracting most attention are nano-titanium dioxide, nanozinc oxide, fullerenes, carbon nanotubes and nanosilver.

The regulatory review concludes that nanomaterials are similar to normal chemicals/substances in that some may be toxic and some may not. Possible risks are related to specific nanomaterials and specific uses. Therefore, nanomaterials require a risk assessment, which should be performed on a case-by-case basis, using pertinent information.

The pair of papers, including the now adopted regulatory review on nanomaterials, are available at http://ec.europa.eu/nanotechnology/policies_en.html

Canada has had a Proposed Regulatory Framework For Nanomaterials Under The Canadian Environmental Protection Act since 2007 but the proposal has not yet been converted to an actual regulatory framework. The Proposed Regulatory Framework can be found at http://www.ec.gc.ca/subsnouvelles-newsubs/default.asp?lang=En&n=FD117B60-1

Canadian waste opportunity expo

The Canadian Waste & Recycling Expo is being held at the International Centre near the Toronto Pearson Airport on November 14 – 15, 2012. This is one show that GallonDaily heartily endorses for anyone in business involved in waste issues, and who is not!

For a very modest admission, visitors can see a wide range of waste management and recycling technologies from more than 200 exhibitors. Most exhibitors are more than willing to chat about new developments in their field. A concurrent Canadian Waste Sector Symposium provides, at additional cost, a series of sessions on such themes as

  • Use of economic instruments and waste management performances in the European Union
  • Evolving trends and the state of the waste industry
  • Global trends in waste management
  • Organic waste management
  • Extended producer responsibility & waste sector servicing
  • Green energy
  • Waste disposal and material handling
  • Hazardous waste management
  • Waste/recycling servicing

More information and a registration form are available at http://www.cwre.ca/

Canadian economy faces energy efficiency challenge from US states

Several major US industrial states are leaders in energy efficiency, according to a US study released last week.

An in-depth study published by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy shows that the top 10 energy efficiency states are Massachusetts, California, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Washington, Maryland, and Minnesota. Interestingly, this group includes some of the top manufacturing states and states that are arguably among the top competitors for Canada’s manufacturing economy.  Energy efficiency means that total energy costs for manufacturers and other users are reduced no matter the actual cost of power consumed.

The ACEEE study also contains some interesting conclusions that may be relevant to Canadian jurisdictions contemplating, or not contemplating, energy efficiency initiatives:

  • Massachusetts retained the top spot in the State Scorecard rankings for the second year in a row, having overtaken California last year, based largely on its continued commitment to energy efficiency under its Green Communities Act of 2008. Among other things, the Act spurred greater investments in energy efficiency programs by requiring utilities to save a large and growing percentage of energy every year through efficiency measures.
  • Annual savings from all customer-funded energy efficiency programs topped 18 million megawatt-hours in 2010, a 40 percent increase over a year earlier.
  • Utility budgets for electric and natural gas efficiency programs rose to almost $7 billion in 2011, a 27 percent increase over a year earlier. Of this, $5.9 billion went to electric efficiency programs, with the remaining $1.1 billion for natural gas programs.
  • Nearly half of the states (24) have adopted and adequately funded an Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS), which sets long-term energy savings targets and drives investments in utility-sector energy efficiency programs. The states with the most aggressive savings targets include Arizona, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
  • Ten states have adopted energy efficiency codes for new building construction that exceed the IECC 2009 orASHRAE 90.1-2007 codes for residential and commercial building construction. Two additional states, Maryland and Illinois, have advanced even further by adopting the most recent and most stringent code for residential construction, the 2012 IECC.

The ACEEE State Energy Efficiency Scorecard is available at http://aceee.org/sector/state-policy/scorecard

A world you like. With a climate you like

The European Commission for Climate Action today launched a campaign to put practical solutions at the centre of the climate change debate and demonstrate how climate action can increase wellbeing and bring economic benefits to European citizens. Under the slogan “A world you like. With a climate you like.” the campaign is highlighting innovative climate solutions that reduce CO2 pollution while also improving people’s quality of life, something the Commission describes as “win-win” solutions – where saving money, time and greenhouse gas emissions go hand in hand.

If the campaign is successful it may well improve the opportunity for more climate responsible products and services and for a more effective role for business in achieving European greenhouse gas targets.

The campaign website is at http://world-you-like.europa.eu/en/  .

Higher environmental management performance may improve employee productivity

A study from the UCLA Anderson School of Management and the University of Paris Dauphine suggests that companies that have adopted environmental standards enjoy higher labour productivity than firms that have not adopted such standards.

The study is based on a survey of French companies which includes responses with detailed employee characteristics from 5220 firms. It used ISO 14001, organic labeling or fair trade as indicators of attention paid to environmental management.

The authors make the case that adoption of environmental standards is associated with increased employee training and interpersonal contacts, which in turn contribute to improved labor productivity. They argue that increased communication among workers with diverse capabilities can lead to knowledge transfer and innovation. This is consistent with the innovation literature, which shows that the integration of divergent thoughts and perspectives enables teams to solve problems and leverage opportunities, and is a critical antecedent of innovation and productivity. They also make the case that the data show that enhanced interpersonal contacts can lead to an improved work environment and increased productivity.

While the results of this study are limited to the French experience, and in other ways, the authors do argue that policymakers and supporters of voluntary standards can emphasize these benefits in order to encourage firms to adopt environmental standards. They state that their findings suggest new ways of achieving the Porter hypothesis’ promise of a positive relationship between environmental practices and financial performance. They indicate that a firm’s social orientation may not only lead to environmental improvements but can also act as an enhancement tool designed to improve work systems.

The full study can be found in the Journal of Organizational Behavior at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/job.1827/abstract by clicking on the Article tab.

 

Air quality may not be getting the attention it needs

A recent report from the European Environment Agency draws attention to the fact that many urban Europeans are exposed to air pollution levels deemed to exceed ‘safe’ levels.

Among the findings:

  • Pollution from particulate matter is leading to premature mortality. The report estimates that in 2010, 21 % of the urban population was exposed to PM10 ( particles with diameter smaller than 10 micrometres) concentration levels higher than the limit value designed to safeguard health. Up to 30 % of the urban population was exposed to finer PM2.5 concentration levels above the (less stringent) yearly EU limit values. According to the WHO reference levels, which are even tighter than those imposed by EU law, respectively up to 81 % and 95 % of urban dwellers were exposed to PM concentrations that exceed the reference values set for the protection of human health.
  • 97 % of EU urban inhabitants were exposed to ozone concentrations above the WHO reference level in 2010. 17 % were exposed to concentrations above the EU target value for O3. In 2009, 22 % of arable land in Europe was exposed to damaging concentrations of O3, leading to agricultural losses.
  • 7 % of Europeans living in cities were exposed to nitrogen dioxide levels above the EU limit values. National emissions of nitrogen oxides in many European countries still exceed emission ceilings set by EU legislation and under United Nations agreements.
  • Between 2008 and 2010, 20-29 % of the European population  was exposed to concentrations of benzo(a)pyrene exceeding the EU target value.  Benzo(a)pyrene is a carcinogen.

Comparable national data is not available for Canada, though it is published for some cities. Europe’s focus on air pollutants is likely to lead to increased attention on air pollution in Canadian cities. We’ll be looking at some of the data that is available for Canadian cities in a future issue of Gallon Environment Letter.

The European Report Air Quality in Europe – 2012 Report is available at http://www.eea.europa.eu/pressroom/newsreleases/many-europeans-still-exposed-to

US government introduces new green labeling guides

The US Federal Trade Commission has introduced an updated version of its ‘Green Guides’ for environmental marketing claims. Companies that make product-related claims in association with products in the US marketplace that do not conform to the guides risk being charged with misleading advertising. Many companies are not aware that environmental claims on products are among the most highly regulated of advertising claims in both Canada and the US.

GallonDaily expects that Canada’s guidance on environmental labeling could be updated at some point in the future to match the US Guides. Even without Canadian matching of the US claims, GallonDaily advises Canadian companies to adhere to the US guidance in case Canadian product finds its way into the United States.

A review of the new US Green Guides will be published in the next issue of Gallon Environment Letter, due to be published next week. Subscription information, including the opportunity for a free sample subscription, is available at http://www.cialgroup.com/subscription.htm  This issue of gallon Environment Letter will also be published at http://www.cialgroup.com/galloncurrent.htm by the end of October 2012.

The new FTC Green Guides are available at http://ftc.gov/opa/2012/10/greenguides.shtm

World grain production headed for record high

The respected Worldwatch Institute, based in Washington DC, has analyzed global grain production data for 2012 and has come to the conclusion that, despite the US drought, world grain production in 2012 will be up 1% from 2011 and will be at record levels. This is contrary to information being distributed by the North American agricultural industry which is projecting shortages of grain and higher prices for human and animal food. US agricultural interests are using the supposed shortage of corn to push for reduction in renewable fuel mandates which require use of biomass-derived ethanol in US gasoline.

Highlights of the Worldwatch report include:

  • The FAO expects global maize production to increase 4.1 percent from 2011, reaching an estimated 916 million tons in 2012.
  • Global rice production achieved an all-time high of 480 million tons in 2011, a 2.6 percent increase from 2010.
  • World wheat production is projected to drop to 675.1 million tons in 2012, down 3.6 percent from 2011, with the largest declines in feed and biofuel utilization.
  • Since 1961, grain production has increased 269 percent and grain yield has increased 157 percent, while the grain harvest area has increased only 25 percent. This is due largely to the Green Revolution and the introduction of high-yielding grain varieties.

The report is available at http://blogs.worldwatch.org/nourishingtheplanet/global-grain-production-at-record-high-despite-extreme-climatic-events/