Emerging Policy Drivers of Green Chemistry

J.H. Guth
Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry, US

Keywords: green chemistry, policy

Summary:

Green chemistry is the science of designing chemicals that are inherently safer than the toxic chemicals currently in industrial use. Because toxic industrial chemicals are both widely used in large sectors of the industrial economy and implicated in many modern environmental and public health problems, there is an enormous need for green chemistry and safer chemicals. Analysts have concluded that the current chemicals market is characterized by several serious market flaws that impede rather than promote the development of green chemistry. These flaws are referred to as the Data Gap, Safety Gap and Technology Gap. Together these gaps provide a series of disincentives to both study of the hazardous properties of existing industrial chemicals and the development and marketing of new, safer chemical replacements. Governments around the world, especially in Europe and California, are taking steps to address these market flaws. Their goal is to create a chemicals market in which the existing demand for safer chemicals will lead to much greater investment in green chemistry and steady replacement of current industrial chemicals with safer ones. California is taking unique steps of its own. California EPA is in the midst of implementing the California Green Chemistry Initiative, which includes two statutes signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2008. The implementing regulations for AB 1879 in particular have been under development for over 4 years and are expected to be completed near the end of 2012. These regulations will launch a new government effort to promote the replacement of toxic industrial chemicals with safer alternatives by requiring manufactures to examine their use of chemicals of concern and to conduct life cycle analyses on possible safer alternatives. The program is expected to start by identifying chemicals of concern and a very small number of priority products containing those chemicals for preparation of alternatives analyses. The goal of the California Green Chemistry Initiative is to provide encouragement, incentives, leadership and guidance to assist industrial manufacturer in their efforts to green the chemicals used in their products, and to promote the development of the green chemistry market in California. Enlisting the power of the market is a key element in creating an industrial economy that will be safer for human health and the environment.