Preventing waste and pollution before they are generated makes more than just economic sense - recycling and environmental purchasing can boost employee morale, improve worker safety, and reduce liability.
There is no one “right way: to develop a program, but the objectives are clear: first reduce as much of your toxic use as you can, then reuse/recycle or replace.
Phase out the worst of the worst chemicals
Are you concerned about the safety of the chemicals your company uses? DEQ compiled a list of 51 chemicals or groups of chemicals
that threaten the health of people and the environment. Conduct a chemical inventory and cross check the chemicals on your inventory with DEQ’s focus list. Are the chemicals you use safe?
Evaluate the chemicals you use for hazards; look for safer alternatives.
Are there safer alternatives? Are the potential alternatives really any safer? Reviewing safety data and conducting a hazard assessment can help you answer those questions.
CHEMICAL HAZARD DATABASES. There are many databases that identify the impacts chemicals have on human health and the environment. These databases can get you started learning more about the potential impacts of chemicals you use. Two of the most helpful are:
Pharos is an online database of more than 34,000 chemicals that screens against 60 hazard and warning lists and categorizes them according to GreenScreen® criteria. Simple and easy to use, Pharos is an excellent starting place to begin learning more about potential impacts of chemicals you may be using.
- Chemical Hazard and Alternatives Toolbox
ChemHAT is a free, internet chemical database that lists information on risks and potential alternatives. Like Pharos, it depends on authoritative lists but focuses on information that helps workers protect themselves against potential harm.
Select safer alternatives; avoid regrettable substitutions
You won’t find the advice to avoid “regrettable substitutions” in a fortune cookie but just replacing a toxic chemicals without having better alternatives could mean moving backwards. That’s not acceptable. Nor is it necessary, given our modern technology and ingenuity.
After you've identified chemicals of concern by screening data or using an existing chemical hazard assessment, you can conduct an alternatives assessment. An alternatives assessment finds and compares possible chemical and non-chemical alternatives that are less likely to harm human health or the environment. This prevents the use of a “regrettable substitution.”
DEQ recommends two primary tools to help with this process
- IC2 Alternatives Assessment Guide
Eight member states of the Interstate Chemicals Clearinghouse developed the IC2 Alternatives Assessment Guide. The guide helps users understand what’s in an alternatives assessment and how to conduct one.
- Washington Alternatives Assessment Guide
The Washington Department of Ecology and other stakeholders created an alternatives assessment guide. The Washington guide is based on the IC2 AA Guide and may provide your business a local focus.
Other Resources for Choosing Safer Alternatives:
- National Academy of Science’s framework
The National Academy of Science recently developed A Framework to Guide Selection of Chemical Alternatives to help interested parties find safer chemical substitutes.
- EPA's Safer Chemical Ingredient List
The EPA's Safer Choice program created a list of safer chemical ingredients arranged by functional-use class. Every ingredient on the list has been evaluated for harmful effects to humans and the environment.
- EPA conducts “Design for the Environment” alternatives assessment for TSCA.
They have steps on how to conduct an Alternative Assessment and examples of projects the Design for the Environment program has conducted.