The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (CDTSC) hosted two engagement sessions encouraging stakeholders to share their perspectives on an actionable definition of sustainable chemistry that was provided by the Expert Committee on Sustainable Chemistry (ECOSChem). ECOSChem is a 20-person group including representatives from academia, government, industry, and non-governmental organizations. The group has been tasked with establishing “an ambitious, actionable definition and criteria for sustainable chemistry that can enable effective government policy, inform business and investor decision making, enhance chemistry education, and spur the adoption across all supply chains of chemicals that are safer and more sustainable.”
In its draft, ECOSChem defined sustainable chemistry as “the practice and application of chemistry that eliminates negative impacts to humans and ecosystems, as well as benefits current and future generations.” The definition was drafted with five criteria in mind (1) health and safety through hazard elimination, (2) climate and ecosystem impacts, (3) circularity, (4) equity and justice, and (5) transparency. In addition to the definition, , ECOSChem provided the following indicators of what sustainable chemistry will look like:
A sustainable chemical, material, process, or product will…
- Eliminate all associated hazards and hazardous emissions to all people and ecosystems across its existence.
- Not result in releases, including releases of byproducts or breakdown products, that negatively persist or bioaccumulate.
- Eliminate impacts on climate and biodiversity by utilizing earth-abundant, non-toxic chemical building blocks that minimize habitat and resource degradation, greenhouse gas emissions, carbon footprints, and energy consumption, including for transportation and distribution.
- Be designed to have [a] lifetime appropriate for its use and enable safe reuse and non-toxic recycling.
- Prioritize resource and energy conservation and reclamation, reduce consumption of finite resources, and waste prevention, minimization, and elimination.
- Be designed such that all associated negative social impacts are eliminated.
- Be made or implemented to prioritize the remediation of harms for communities and societies that have been disproportionately impacted by traditional chemistries, chemicals, and chemical processes, and/or support the needs of workers, marginalized groups (e.g., immigrant communities, and communities of color), and vulnerable groups (e.g., pregnant women and children).
- Be made or implemented in a way that does not create new problems or shift harm to other communities or societies.
- Have had its health, safety, and environmental data disclosed in an accessible format to individuals, workers, communities, policymakers, and the public.
- Use independent, third-party systems to verify sustainability, health, safety, and other claims. The sources for verification should be openly accessible.
ECOSChem members will use the feedback received at the meeting to revise the definition to ensure that the language is clear and actionable.