Significant environmental penalty for a small Quebec company

A Quebec company that makes cast aluminum residential and commercial exterior light fixtures has been fined $5,000 and ordered to pay $15,000 to the Environmental Damages Fund after pleading guilty to using trichloroethylene (TCE) in quantities exceeding the permitted amount. The company must also publish an article in the business magazine Les Affaires and train company officials on the criminal consequences of failing to comply with the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

The company uses TCE for degreasing of metal parts used in manufacturing light fixtures. Use of TCE is regulated under CEPA and it is listed in Schedule 1 of the Solvent Degreasing Regulations. In addition to the fine the company must publish an article in the business magazine Les Affaires and train company officials on the criminal consequences of failing to comply with CEPA. Reports indicate that the Company has about 140 employees.

It is likely that many smaller companies are out of compliance with environmental laws and regulations, sometimes because of ignorance of the law and failing to recognize which substances are regulated and when permits are required. GallonDaily recommends that it is wise for all small and medium sized manufacturing and processing industries to commission periodic environmental audits so that out of environmental compliance situations can be identified and corrected before they are found by environmental enforcement officers. If a company has reason to believe that non-compliance situations do exist, involvement of their lawyer, or an environmental lawyer, in such an audit may provide further protection from enforcement using the environmental audit as evidence during and after correction of any problems identified.

The Environment Canada announcement of the court decision can be found at

Can we achieve 50% reduction in GHG emissions by 2050?

According to a research team from the Energy Futures Lab and Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London, the answer is a very clear yes. Not only that but it will cost only 1% of global GDP and it can be done with technologies which either currently exist at commercial scale, or which have been demonstrated at sub-commercial scale but which are still awaiting full-scale deployment.

A large part of the transformation, the report states, comes from deploying new technologies which save energy, avoid increasingly expensive fossil fuels, and in many cases are projected to fall in cost over time.

Interestingly, the report states that the globally-averaged CO2 intensity of electricity generation can be reduced from a projected level of around 500 g/kWh in 2050 to less than 100 g/kWh. Then much of the emissions reduction will flow from conversion of energy-using systems to electricity, accompanied by a switch to zero-carbon or near-zero-carbon generation technologies, including carbon capture and storage (CCS), nuclear and renewables.

There needs to be a shift towards electrification of industrial manufacturing processes, building heating systems, and vehicle propulsion systems. A range of technologies will be required to achieve this, including increased penetrations of electric arc furnaces in steelmaking, heat pumps in buildings, and battery electric and hybrid vehicles in road transport.

Energy efficiency will need to improve in order to achieve relatively low-cost CO2 reductions which will help keep the overall energy system transition cost manageable. As such, the authors envisage a 19% improvement in industrial energy efficiency, and a 33% improvement in both the transport and buildings sectors.

The world will need to shift from its current overwhelming reliance on fossil fuels (especially in transportation), although these will still be a significant part of the non-transportation 2050 energy mix. This decreasing reliance is important if we are concerned about uncertainty around future fossil fuel prices, or indeed about rising fossil fuel prices.

The report concludes that

  • Without concerted action and a continuation of historic trends in energy usage,  global fossil fuel consumption will increase by 50% compared to current levels.
  • Achieving a much lower level of CO2 emissions in 2050 (around 15 Gt per year, which is broadly consistent with a 2˚C global warming limit) will cost of the order 1% per year of  global GDP by 2050 in a low fossil fuel price case, and much less than this if fossil fuel prices are higher.
  • Such a transition will require a broad range of low-carbon technologies deployed across all sectors of the economy, underpinned by the decarbonisation of the power sector, within which the precise mix of technologies does not affect the overall cost significantly. In each low-carbon scenario the unit electricity costs increase by about 40% (in the high fossil fuel price case) to about 70% (in the low fossil fuel price case)  compared to the low mitigation scenario, but even in the low carbon scenarios, electricity cost increases would not keep pace with increases in per capita GDP to 2050.
  • As well as electricity decarbonisation, achieving energy efficiency across the whole economy is critical, with the reported low-carbon scenario showing an approximate 30% reduction in end-use energy demand in 2050, compared to the low mitigation scenario.
  • In the low-carbon scenario, fossil fuel demand would reduce by almost 40% in 2050, compared to the low mitigation scenario.
  • Every one of the ten [global] regions studied makes a significant contribution to the overall achievement of the low-carbon transition. [The authors] believe this transition to still be achievable and affordable.

GallonDaily remains unconvinced by some elements of the Imperial College low carbon scenario but is is encouraging to see at least one team of experts reporting that a 50% reduction in emissions by 2050 is still possible.

The full report is available by following a link from

Canada’s performance in sustainable energy, according to the World Energy Council

The World Energy Council is an organization which represents the entire energy spectrum, with more than 3000 member organisations located in over 90 countries and drawn from governments, private and state corporations, academia, NGOs and energy-related stakeholders. Its reports attract more than passing attention.

Its 2013 World Energy Trilemma report may attract more than passing attention in Ottawa. The report includes the WECs Energy Sustainability Index, an index that ranks countries in terms of their ability to provide a secure, affordable, and environmentally-sustainable energy system. The top five countries in this composite index are Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Austria, and the United Kingdom. In sixth place: Canada. In 15th place: the United States. Canada scored very high on energy security and energy equity but fell behind on environmental sustainability, where we were 60th out of 129 countries. The United States was in 86th place on that same sub-index.

More important than an index of countries may be the report’s main conclusions. GallonDaily summarizes these as:

  • To make sustainable energy systems a reality, energy executives must be more proactive in sharing their knowledge, insights, and experiences with policymakers and regulators.
  • The private sector [should] play a lead role in the technology development and innovation that will reduce the cost of energy and enable countries to lower their carbon emissions.
  • Today, 17% of the global population is without access to electricity and 41% lacks access to clean cooking facilities, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Asia, Southern Asia, and South-Eastern Asia. First, the energy industry and also other investors should engage in dialogue with public stakeholders to identify and lower the barriers impeding investment. Second, the energy industry needs to be more proactive in assisting developing countries with adopting proven technologies, in part by working with them to explore ways to reduce the cost of technology transfer.
  • Creating a master plan to achieve diversified, and therefore sustainable, energy systems worldwide may take years to get right, especially given recent dramatic shifts in energy supply and the lack of a global agreement on the target profile of a future energy system. All public and private stakeholders should start down the path now. Too much is at stake for them to hold back. The investment required will take decades to fully transform energy systems and infrastructure. A start needs to be made immediately if sustainable energy systems are to be developed at an affordable cost. It is time to cut through the present uncertainty and to translate the consensus identified into actions on the ground.

Subtitled Time to get real – the case for sustainable energy investment, this 109 page report should be required reading for all involved in the energy business around the world. It can be found by following the link at

By the way, in case it is not yet obvious, the WEC defines trilemma as the triple challenge of finding solutions that support secure, affordable, and environmentally-sensitive energy.

Dilution is not eliminating pollutants in Lake Michigan

For too many years, municipalities, industry, and communities have relied on the properties of large bodies of water to diffuse persistent pollutants to below detectable levels. Now new research shows that dilution, which never was an environmentally acceptable solution to pollution, may not even behave as expected. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin have found much larger than expected concentrations of pollutants from personal care products as far as 3.2 km from shore. The concentrations away from the shore were identified as presenting a medium or high risk to the environmental health of the lake ecosystem. The researchers conclude their report:

The most frequently detected PPCPs [Pharmaceuticals and personal care products] were metformin [an antidiabetic drug], caffeine, sulfamethoxazole [an antibiotic], and triclosan [an antibacterial]. Given the widespread detection of PPCPs, these pollutants are not ephemeral and pose an environmental risk to the sixth largest lake in the world. Therefore, high dilution is not adequate to mitigate the risk from this cocktail of PPCPs and the potential ecological risk for large lake systems is much higher than previously understood.

The fact that many of the environmentally toxic substances used in PPCPs [in the case of caffeine, used in many beverages and not fully metabolized by the body] find their way through sewage treatment plants and out into the aquatic environment is by no means a new finding. The fact that these chemicals are not adequately diluted, if there is such a thing as adequate dilution, is adding to our body of knowledge. It can only be a matter of time before the public begins to consider the pollution of lakes as large as Michigan with toxic substances to be socially and environmentally unacceptable.

Industry will almost certainly be fingered as the transgressor. Governments will likely step in to regulate the use of common aquatic contaminants. Municipalities will seek money from PPCP manufacturers and brandowners to pay for sewage treatment plant upgrades to remove these substances from effluent discharges. Environmental groups will point fingers at what they consider to be the most polluting products.

In the case of polyethylene microspheres, some companies have shown that they can play a leadership role in removing the potentially harmful ingredients from their products (see, for example, It seems to GallonDaily that companies could benefit, by avoiding regulations, sewer levies, and criticism, if they worked more aggressively and more openly to remove these additional persistent environmental contaminants from their consumer products or, where removal may not be possible, as in the case of drugs, to inform consumers as to less environmentally harmful ways to use and dispose of the product.

A full list of the substances identified in Lake Michigan, their concentrations, the test methodology, and much more information is available in the paper published in the Elsevier journal Chemosphere at

Food waste a huge environmental problem, states UN FAO.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has published what it claims is the first study to analyze the impacts of global food wastage from an environmental perspective, looking specifically at the consequences of food waste for the climate, water, land use, and biodiversity. This report is as alarming as anything published by environmental groups. According to the report, one third of all food produced goes to waste, with annual consequences:

  •  food that is produced but not eaten consumes roughly  250 cubic kilometres of water, about half the volume of Lake Erie.
  • emission of 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases, more than four times Canada’s total GHG emissions.
  • direct economic consequences of $750 billion.

The report, and an accompanying toolkit to assist in food waste reduction, underlines the multiple benefits that can be realized– in many cases through simple and thoughtful measures — by households, retailers, restaurants, schools and businesses that can contribute to environmental sustainability, economic improvements, food security and the realization of the UN Secretary General’s Zero Hunger Challenge.

The report states that 54% of the world’s food wastage occurs “upstream” during production, post-harvest handling and storage, while 46% happens “downstream,” at the processing, distribution and consumption stages. Developing countries suffer more food losses during agricultural production, while food waste at the retail and consumer level tends to be higher in middle- and high-income regions of the world.

A summary, with links to the report and to the toolkit for reducing food waste, is available at A more detailed summary will be included in a future issue of Gallon Environment Letter. Readers may also be interested in the ‘restaurant’ feature in the current issue of Gallon Environment Letter, a free subscription to which is available for a limited time (individuals only) by sending your email address to or, for organizational subscriptions, by visiting

Tools for reducing water use in building cooling towers

Cooling towers, part of the system to remove excess heat from the interior of large buildings, are usually hidden on the building roof and receive little public attention except when they may be associated with an outbreak of Legionella disease. The New York City based Environmental Defense Fund has calculated that buildings with cooling towers typically use 28% of their total water use for their cooling towers, In addition to the cost and environmental impact of that amount of water use, chemicals are added to the cooling tower water to extend its usable life by reducing precipitation of solids and killing bacteria.

Rather than calling for additional regulations or other government involvement, EDF has partnered with AT&T Inc. to develop and publish a toolkit through which building managers can develop their own  building-related water efficiency plan. The toolkit includes:

  • WaterMapp, a multi-tabbed spreadsheet with a water scorecard and a water efficiency calculator. The scorecard is used to create visibility for water performance at facilities. The calculator estimates water and financial savings from cooling tower or free-air cooling improvements—key data for making the water-efficiency investment business case
  • A cooling system efficiency guide and a series of 12 videos to provide more information on how a cooling system works and how systems can be managed to minimize their use of water, energy and chemicals.
  • Water audit templates to assist in defining the unique water profile of a building. As regular readers of GallonDaily will know, measurement is an essential precondition for effective efficiency initiatives.

EDF is holding a free webinar on Wednesday October 2nd from 3 to 4 pm Eastern time to introduce the toolkit. Preregistration is required. The webinar is to be conducted by experts and will introduce building managers and other involved individuals to:

  • Measuring and managing water use
  • Optimizing building cooling
  • Building the business case to realize an ROI on water management

The introduction to the building water efficiency toolkit, a link to the kit, and a link for registration for the webinar, can be found at

New Walmart ‘Sustainable Chemistry’ plan applies to US only

Last week Walmart announced a new policy on ‘sustainable chemistry’ in consumable products. While GallonDaily usually holds comments until plans are actually implemented, because so many do not get fully implemented, this one has the promise of being such a game changer that we thought it worthy of mention upfront.

Our comments follow, but here is what Walmart announced:

  • Walmart will work with suppliers on continuous performance improvement on The Sustainability Index to address chemical disclosure, risk assessment and hazard avoidance.
  • Beginning in January 2015, Walmart will require suppliers to provide online public ingredient disclosure for items sold at Walmart.
  • Walmart has prioritized a list of approximately ten chemical ingredients, as its initial list of high priority chemicals, for continuous reduction, restriction, and elimination, using informed substitution principles, and will regularly review if additional chemicals should be prioritized. Priority Chemicals will be shared with suppliers.
  • Walmart will begin to label private brand cleaning products in accordance with the U.S. EPA’s Design for the Environment Safer Product Labeling program, to the extent possible, and will continue to assess the applicability of DfE as it expands to broader product areas.

There is more in the announcement, available at , but the additional commitments are more of a timing and administrative nature.  A broader review by Walmart of its Sustainability Index program is available at

The ‘Sustainability Index could be a real game changer on the matter of environmentally harmful ingredients in consumer products but the announcement has what GallonDaily considers some flaws:

  • It only applies to Walmart’s US business. Why Walmart considers that US consumers need or want ‘sustainable chemistry’  ahead of Walmart customers in Canada and the rest of the world is very unclear.
  • Walmart has not announced the approximately ten chemical ingredients that are on its priority list for removal from its consumer products. How does one have approximately ten ingredients? Something is either going to be targeted for removal or it is not.  Identification of chemicals for removal from consumer product formulations is a significant challenge. We suspect that the Walmart announcement is approximate because they have not yet made decisions on which chemicals to target for reduction or removal.
  • Why do we have to wait until January 2015 to learn of the ingredients in Walmart products? They have wisely indicated that the information will be posted on a website, rather than being printed in a tiny font on the label. With a website, the information should be posted by January 2014.
  • Why is Canada left out of this apparently significant initiative?

War of words on BC EPR at Canadian Stewardship Conference

It is not too often that organizations air their policy differences at a business conference but that is exactly what happened during a session at the Conference on Canadian Stewardship yesterday afternoon.

Glenda Gies, speaking on behalf of Allen Langdon, Managing Director of Multi-Materials British Columbia, gave a presentation on the new BC Extended Producer Responsibility program, gave an overview presentation on how the new program, intended to come into effect next year, would work. Her presentation was followed by one from Mayor Wayne Wright of the City of New Westminster in Metro Vancouver.

It was clear from the Mayor’s presentation that municipalities in BC are not happy with the new EPR program. Saying that the devil is in the details, the Mayor challenged a number of aspects of the new initiative and suggested that it may not give BC residents the quality of recycling collection program that municipalities want. A number of municipalities have asked MMBC and the province to delay implementation of the program by 90 days to allow further review and negotiation of the program details. Wright and Gies could not even agree on the number of municipalities that have asked for the delay, with Wright claiming it to be 22 and Gies saying it is somewhat less than that!

Bureaucrats and program advisors should by now know that something that is absolutely taboo when working with government or quasi-government programs is to embarrass the Minister. Allowing this difference between MMBC and BC municipalities to be aired in a public forum should have been a big no-no. GallonDaily bets that municipalities will get their way, that the program will be delayed and possibly amended, and that the new BC EPR will be off to a very rocky start, if it takes off at all, because of inadequate consultation with municipalities and, now, interference from provincial politicians.

It is time that ‘experts’ recognized that they are not experts when it comes to the court of public and politician opinion.


This item is a GallonDaily original from the Conference on Canadian Stewardship. More from the conference in future articles. We will report more on the BC EPR program in Gallon Environment Letter as soon as the BC Environment Ministry determines the final form of the initiative.

IISD report blames Europe for tropical forest destruction

In a strongly finger pointing report, researchers writing under the brand of the Global Subsidies Initiative of the International Institute for Sustainable Development have blamed European biodiesel policy for contributing to destruction of tropical forests and their replacement with palm oil plantations.

The report states:

  • The EU-27 is one of the key consumers of palm oil globally; its share of global palm oil consumption has remained relatively stable over the last 20 years, ranging from 12 to 15 per cent.
  • Over 2006–2012, the EU-27 countries increased their total use of palm oil by 40 per cent, from 4.5 to 6.4 million tonnes,
  • In 2012, about 1.9 million tonnes were used for biodiesel production and 0.6 million tonnes for electricity and heat generation. The bulk, 3.9 million tonnes, was used by the non-energy sector, which is represented mainly by food production, but also by the personal care (cosmetics, detergents) and oleo-chemical (paints, lubricants) industries.
  • On the EU-27 scale, the biofuels industry has increased its use of palm oil by 365 per cent over 2006–2012, which can be linked primarily to the growth in biodiesel production stimulated by government policies during the same period. The increase in palm oil consumption in the biofuels sector has amounted to 1.6 million tonnes, or 80 per cent of the total increase in palm oil consumption in Europe (1.9 million tonnes) over 2006–2012.
  • According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, on average, land planted with palm oil produces 5 to 10 times more oil per hectare (including palm kernel oil) than any other vegetable crop: 3.41 metric tonnes per hectare for palm oil, compared with just 0.68 metric tonnes for rapeseed [canola] and 0.36 tonnes for soy.
  • As a result of its increasing production and availability, palm oil has been by far the cheapest vegetable oil on the world market. For instance, in July 2013 a tonne of palm oil was 27 per cent cheaper than a tonne of rapeseed or soybean oil
  • For every extra tonne of biodiesel produced in the EU in 2006–2012, there was an increase of 110 kilograms of palm oil consumed as biodiesel feedstock. It has to be noted, however, that biodiesel production in the EU actually decreased in 2010, and, though it increased in 2011 and 2012, it still did not return to its 2009 historic maximum: palm oil consumption in the biofuel sector in Europe steadily increased over the observed period.
  • By 2020 the EU biodiesel sector will consume around 2.6 – 2.7 million tonnes of palm oil, or 40 per cent more than in 2012.
  • The only unequivocal way to cut this trend and prevent the further increase of palm oil consumption in the EU is to freeze its biodiesel production and consumption at current levels in accordance with the European Commission’s legislative proposal of October 17, 2012 that seeks to limit the contribution of food-based biofuels to meeting the EU target of renewable energy in transport by 2020 to 5 per cent from the current 10 per cent target. If the EU does not cut its current subsidies to biodiesel, it may, in an indirect way, lead to the cutting down of more rainforests, the conversion of more forest and peat land for palm oil plantations, and the emission of more carbon into the atmosphere.

GallonDaily’s take on this report is that, while there is a connection between biodiesel policy in the EU and increased palm oil production, the linkage is indirect and could be addressed in ways other than shutting down expanded use of biodiesel. After all, if the EU limits biodiesel production, without other policy initiatives,  the result will almost certainly be an increase in greenhouse gas emissions from use of fossil fuels.

On the other hand, the debate about palm oil use illustrates one of the significant challenges to product environmental claims such as  ‘renewable’, ‘bio-based’, and ‘made from agricultural resources’.  Just because a product is made from renewable resources does not necessarily mean that its environmental footprint is lower than that of the conventional product. Only a lifecycle analysis, or some similar lifecycle approach which considers unintended consequences as well as direct environmental effects, can determine whether a bio-based product is an appropriate solution to the environmental challenges that we face.

Canada’s IISD has rarely engaged in this kind of strident finger-pointing before, preferring to present factual reports that encourage readers to come to their own conclusions about environmental villains. Maybe this report indicates something of a new direction under the new President and CEO of IISD, Scott Vaughan, former Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development in the Office of the Auditor General of Canada.

The IISD report The EU Biofuel Policy and Palm Oil: Cutting subsidies or cutting rainforest?,  prepared for, and with the funding of Friends of the Earth Europe. can be found at

Ireland environmental group calls for levy on paper shopping bags

In Canada the plastic shopping bag issue seems to have gone quiet, at least temporarily, since the City of Toronto recently set aside a proposal to ban single use bags. In Ireland, however, the issue has taken an unexpected but potentially scientifically correct twist.

Many readers will know that Ireland was the first country to apply a levy, currently the equivalent of a bout 22 cents, on single use plastic shopping bags. The levy was intended to discourage the use of such bags based on their purported negative environmental impacts.

The major Irish environmental group Friends of the Irish Environment has pointed out that ‘life cycle analyses (LCAs) show that paper bags have a greater adverse impact than a plastic bag for a number of the environmental issues’. The organization is calling on the government to impose the levy on paper shopping bags as well as plastic bags.

The groups states that ‘A paper bag weighs roughly six times more than plastic, is about four times more expensive and takes up to ten times more storage space. The plastic bag levy has led to a displacement to paper bags in which could be as high as 80% according to Irish industry sources. A higher incidence of double bagging of paper bags for strength as well as heavier paper bags is another result of the levy.’

It is encouraging to see an environmental group using LCA rather than emotion-based claims for its campaign efforts.

The full Friends of the Irish Environment press release is available at