California’s Safer Consumer Product Regulations, part of the state’s Green Chemistry Initiative, took effect on October 1, 2013, imposing significant new requirements on product manufacturers, importers, and retailers of consumer goods in the state. The regulations, promulgated by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and initially mandated in 2008, take a bold and novel approach to identifying and restricting toxic chemicals in virtually all consumer products sold, supplied, distributed and made in California. Because California is the largest consumer marketplace in the country, the new regulations are expected to touch the entire global supply chain of products ranging from personal care items to furniture to computers and televisions, and prompt major changes in the way consumer products are designed, formulated, used, and collected for disposal.
The regulations outline a four-step regulatory process aimed at having manufacturers replace toxic chemicals used in their products with safer options and making information about product materials more available to the public. Under the rules:
• DTSC will create a list of potentially toxic chemicals (“Candidate Chemicals”) based on chemicals identified by other authoritative organizations like the EU’s European Chemicals Agency. DTSC plans to post an informational list of Candidate Chemicals by November 1, 2013. Observers estimate some 1,200 chemicals will be identified for the initial list but the rules also provide a process for adding more substances.
• DTSC will develop a list of “Priority Products” containing these Candidate Chemicals for which alternative analyses must be conducted. A Candidate Chemical that is the basis for a product being placed on the Priority Products list will be designated as a Chemical of Concern (COC). DTSC plans to propose an initial list of up to five Priority Products for public comment by April 1, 2014.
• Manufacturers, importers, assemblers and retailers of Priority Products will be required to notify DTSC when one of their products has been listed as such and will have to perform an “alternatives assessment” to determine how best to limit exposures to the COCs in the product. DTSC is expected to release a guidance on the steps involved in conducting an alternative assessment in the near future.
• DTSC will then have the ability to impose conditions on Priority Products to limit potential adverse public health and environmental impacts from it or any of its COCs, or from any alternative chemical or product selected to replace the Priority Product. Possible regulatory responses available to DTSC include establishing end-of-life product stewardship programs, restricting the use of chemicals in a product or the use of a product, or banning sales of a product in California.
Businesses selling consumer products in California need to be prepared and informed as this complex regulatory scheme is implemented. Some experts have advised businesses to begin planning a strategy or building a case to keep their products off of the inaugural list of Priority Products set to be announced next spring. Critics have noted the law lacks sufficient protection for proprietary information and trade secrets, another issue for businesses to consider. Companies should also expect to make major investments in compliance because the centerpiece of the scheme, the new, untested approach of alternatives assessment, is expected to produce a steep and expensive learning curve. Responding to enforcement could also be costly, as DTSC has an array of conditions and regulatory responses from which to choose, some particularly burdensome such as requiring a manufacturer to maintain an end-of-life product stewardship fund for Priority Products required to be managed as hazardous waste. Moreover, as California is often the leader in these types of initiatives and Congress has been unable to advance federal chemicals regulatory reform, other states may well follow in its footsteps in order to address potentially harmful chemicals in consumer products.
To read the regulations, go to: http://www.dtsc.ca.gov/SCPRegulations.cfm.
INDA, NACWA, WEF and APWA Team to Reduce Burden on Wastewater Systems
INDA announced September 17 that it has joined forces with the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), the Water Environment Federation (WEF), and the American Public Works Association (APWA) to address challenges posed by people flushing non-flushable disposable products.
A number of sewer systems with aging infrastructure across the country have reported clogged pipes and jammed pumps, leading lawmakers to consider, but not adopt, legislation in California to establish labeling requirements and mandate third party verification of dispersability and in Maine to establish state standards for products labeled as “flushable”. Meanwhile, various media outlets, including stories in the Washington Post and USA Today, have attributed the problems primarily to products labeled as “flushable,” specifically wipes. However, as INDA president Dave Rousse noted, the issues are actually the result of people flushing products they have no business flushing--things such as baby wipes, feminine care products, and paper towels.
“Some products are designed to be flushed, while others are not. It is the products that are not designed to be flushed, but get flushed anyway, that are creating the problem for wastewater systems and we are working collaboratively to change this,” Rousse said in a September 17 release.
Cynthia Finley, director of regulatory affairs at NACWA, concurred. “The problems in the sewer system are caused by the flushing of products that don’t properly break apart in the sewer system – products such as baby wipes, personal care wipes, paper towels, and feminine care products. These products are sometimes disposed of in toilets because of how and where they are used, causing significant economic burdens on local wastewater treatment systems,” she said.
The groups say they will use rigorous assessment of flushability claims and improved product labeling as tools to address the issues. To aid in these efforts, INDA and its European counterpart EDANA recently released an updated and streamlined version of its flushability guidelines and a Code of Practice for manufacturers and marketers of wipes and other disposable nonwoven products. INDA/EDANA’s 3rd Edition Guidance Document for Assessing the Flushability of Nonwoven Disposable Products sets forth seven rigorous tests to be performed before a flushable claim can be made for a product. Meanwhile, the Code of Practice includes a detailed decision tree to determine the proper labeling of a product. It also calls upon companies to prominently display a single uniform “Do Not Flush” logo on the packaging of products that are not designed to be flushed but might be because of how or where they are used. INDA’s research shows that 94% of people who were shown the “Do Not Flush” logo understood it’s meaning even if they had never seen it before and water system representatives agree that its prominent use will be an important consumer education tool.
INDA’s Rousse expressed hope that both sides being fully engaged and working cooperatively will yield a positive outcome. “We welcome the support of NACWA, WEF, and APWA and look forward to continuing our dialogue as we tackle this problem together. We all support good product stewardship and doing what’s right for the environment. That includes making sure that products that claim to be flushable will not harm the sewer system, and educating consumers on proper disposal by ensuring that disposable products not designed to be flushed are properly labeled with the Do Not Flush logo.”
The 3rd Edition Guidance Document for Assessing the Flushability of Nonwoven Disposable Products, the Code of Practice and Do Not Flush logo may be downloaded free of charge by visiting www.inda.org/issues-advocacy/flushability.