hazardous waste

When In Doubt, Throw Out Safely—Part 3

For the last three weeks, I’ve been having a greenversation with my colleagues in the blogosphere on the disposal of cadmium/lead-laced toy jewelry. I was glad to see the exchange that has developed over time. The comments have compelled me to write a third blog on this issue. I’m very happy to report that since we started this conversation on the toxic toy jewelry and metal trinkets, CPSC has actually recalled some items due to their cadmium and lead content. Those are great news! Just helping to get the word out to parents so they will keep these toxic items away from their children.

However, this greenversation points to the need to further address the proper disposal of other household items that may have hazardous content—batteries, electronics, even cell phones, to name a few. The title of my blogs, “When in doubt, throw it out,” was not meant as a blanket statement for all solid waste management. There are guidelines for the proper disposal and recycling of items with hazardous waste. So, I recommend that you visit the following Web pages to obtain additional information on the important issues you mentioned so we can all work to protect the environment where we live, work, learn and play.

Here are some useful Websites for the disposal and recycling of the following products:
batteries; mercury-containing light bulb recycling; electronics; cell phones; used oil; and general household hazardous waste.

Thank you for your input. Keep it coming.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Green Chemistry – Chemistry Done Right

While I was in graduate school, I ran into someone collecting signatures in protest of the nearby construction of a hazardous waste incinerator. When I asked him what should be done with the hazardous waste, he said “They just shouldn’t make it.” I dismissed him as oversimplifying a complex situation—that chemicals are a vital part of our lives and we just can’t not have the industry. I suspected his real motives were that he didn’t want it near to where he lived. However, after I began working at EPA and learned about green chemistry, I realized that, whatever his motives, he was essentially right. To an ever-increasing extent, we’re discovering that we can have a vital, innovative, competitive chemicals industry with less—or even no hazardous waste.

image of green chemistry logoThis year marks my 12th year working with EPA’s Green Chemistry Program and those dozen years have clearly shown me how effective green chemistry can be in preventing pollution.

Green chemistry is “the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances.” It applies to what chemists make, what they make it from, and how they make it. It encourages scientists to think as broadly as possible about the potential impacts of the chemistry choices they make and to minimize the hazard associated with those choices. It’s a significant departure from traditional environmental protection, which focused on protecting people and the environment by minimizing exposure to hazardous substances. Instead, green chemistry protects by focusing on minimizing the intrinsic hazard of chemicals.

Fortunately, we can have the high-performing chemical products that our economy depends on—stuff used in health care, safety, building, transportation, electronics, food and agriculture, entertainment, and nearly every other industry—at a competitive price AND with a lower environmental footprint. There is no fundamental scientific reason that the chemistry has to be hazardous. The fact is that much of the chemistry that the industry currently uses is decades old and from a time that environmental protection was an afterthought, if it was a thought at all. What green chemistry espouses, and the winners of the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge demonstrate, is that you can have “cleaner, cheaper, smarter chemistry” if you include reduced hazard as one of the design criteria.

My dream is that one day, we won’t need a Green Chemistry Program—it will be as natural a part of the way that chemists practice their science as the Periodic Table of the Elements. You can read more at www.epa.gov/greenchemistry.

About the author: Rich Engler is a chemist in the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics and is currently the Program Manager for EPA’s Green Chemistry Program. Before he joined EPA, he taught Organic Chemistry at the University of San Diego.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.