California Green Chemistry Initiative Looks to Change Industry's Production Processes

The Green Chemistry Initiative has been pioneered in California as a means to change how industry thinks and deals with toxic chemicals in its production processes.

The Green Chemistry Initiative has been pioneered in California as a means to change how industry thinks and deals with toxic chemicals in its production processes. Although not currently in effect, the initiative's idea is to eliminate or reduce toxic materials at the beginning of production rather than at the end.

What is Green Chemistry?

Across the United States, green chemistry is taking root, with implementation varying from voluntary requirements to mandatory legislation. In the state of California, the Green Chemistry Initiative looks to impact all products bought by consumers, with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) defining the initiative as the ‘innovation, design and manufacture of chemical products and processes intended to reduce or eliminate the creation and use of materials hazardous to human health and the environment.'

100,000 toxic chemicals are found in the production of electrical and electronic (E&E) equipment, and popular gadgets in particular are replete with hazardous materials. A laptop, for example, boasts not only the use of 3,200 liters of water and 160 liters of fossil fuels, it also includes a toxic chemical byproduct from the complex production of a silicon microcircuit.

Manufacturing the Change

It is a sea change to manage chemicals at the beginning of product design rather than at the end of the product lifecycle, and green chemistry experts seek to do this by exploring each stage of the product's life, including manufacture, consumption and usage, and disposal, in addition to the design itself. Toxic chemicals are thus replaced at the start with benign alternatives. Although the California Green Chemistry Initiative is not effective yet, it will challenge manufacturers to find chemical substitutes that are less harmful than those used currently.

When effective, the California Green Chemistry Initiative will also put the obligation firmly on manufacturers to find safer alternatives to toxic chemicals; manufacturers must then provide a report to retailers, certifying that their products are free of Chemicals of Concern (CoC). If unable to do this, manufacturers must prove that a research program is underway in order to find safer alternatives to the CoCs currently in use. Any CoCs authorized by relevant agencies in product manufacture must be disposed of correctly, and manufacturers are now obliged to devise a waste management program in order to avoid harmful environmental impacts from the disposal of CoCs.

Green Initiatives bring Sales Benefits

Although the California Green Chemistry Initiative puts the onus on manufacturers, and some indeed may feel the shouldering of the burden of environmental and public health protection to be a little heavy, incentives are present; green chemistry can help produce significant cost savings in both the production and disposal processes. Eliminating hazardous material at the onset of production helps promote savings on the disposal and recycling of such materials. Not to be overlooked is the popularity of green initiatives, with increased sales among the average consumer base often resulting from green efforts on the part of manufacturers.

About SGS Restricted Substances Testing Services

The third party inspection company, SGS, has helped companies comply with the California Green Chemistry Initiative and with other green chemistry regulations, by including a risk-based approach in the testing of Chemicals of Concern (CoC). SGS believes the overhaul in manufacturing production processes provides exciting opportunities for manufacturers.

Please contact SGS, should you need more information.

SGS Consumer Testing Services
Paul Milne, Ph.D.
Technical Manager, Restricted Substances Testing Services
SGS – North America
291 Fairfield Avenue
Fairfield, NJ 07004, USA

t: +1 973-461-1512

SGS is the world's leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. SGS is recognized as the global benchmark for quality and integrity. With more than 70,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,350 offices and laboratories around the world.

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