EPA Requests Comments on Its Role in Advancing Sustainable Products
Pollution Prevention Act/Sustainable Products:
In today’s Federal Register, EPA solicited comments from stakeholders on potential roles for the Agency in advancing sustainable products. According to the notice, EPA will consider the comments it receives and as well as information it gathers from other sources to help define its role and develop a strategy that identifies how the Agency can make a meaningful contribution to the development, manufacture, designation, and use of sustainable products. Comments are due by October 19, 2010.
EPA requested input on the following questions:
1. What do you see as the major policy and research challenges, opportunities, and trends impacting the development, manufacture, designation, and use of sustainable products?
2. What do you see as EPA’s overall role in addressing these challenges and opportunities?
3. In particular, how do you see EPA’s role in:
- Assembling information and databases.
- Identifying sustainability ‘‘hotspots’’and setting product sustainability priorities.
- Evaluating the multiple impacts of products across their entire life cycle.
- Defining criteria for more sustainable products.
- Generating eco-labels and/or standards.
- Establishing the scientific foundation for these eco-labels and/or standards.
- Verifying that products meet standards.
- Stimulating the market.
- Developing end-of-life management systems (reuse, recycling, etc.).
- Measuring results, evaluating programs.
EPA cites Section 13103(b) of the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 (PPA) as its authority for this action. That section requires the Administrator of EPA to facilitate the adoption of source reduction techniques by businesses and to identify opportunities to use Federal procurement to encourage source reduction. For those who are less familiar with the PPA, 2010 is the Act’s 20th anniversary.
It’s nice to see EPA allowing its use of the PPA authority to evolve in response to today’s market demands and societal needs. However, the potential impact on market competition from Agency involvement in this area means that EPA’s notice is likely to receive a mixed reception. Some will welcome it as an opportunity to help organize a market that seems crowded, disorganized, confusing, and misleading in some cases. Others will prefer to let this rapidly evolving market mature without excessive government involvement. And still others will worry about the regulatory consequences for products that are not deemed sustainable should the Agency promote a defined set of criteria or support a particular eco-label. Undoubtedly, many stakeholders will submit comments to sensitize the Agency to these concerns, as well as the potential trade-offs and other considerations.
So, what do readers think? Should EPA attempt to set criteria identifying which products are “sustainable” or should the market be left to do that? Again, comments are due by October 19, 2010.