Hazardous chemicals are used in our manufacturing processes, in packaging, and in the products we use. These chemicals can cause concern to humans and the environment when we are exposed to them.
Minnesota’s policy is to eliminate or reduce at the source, the use, generation or release of toxic pollutants and hazardous wastes.
The MPCA works to address the challenges our use of chemicals creates by:
- Working with manufacturers to find ways to reduce chemical waste or avoid the use of toxic chemicals in the production process.
- Working with companies to find ways to reduce or avoid the use of toxic chemicals in the products they make and ensure those products are properly managed at the end of their useful lives.
Toxics and Pollution Prevention Evaluation Report
As directed by Minn. Stat. 115A.121, the Toxics and Pollution Prevention Evaluation Report discusses pollution prevention activities required in chapters 115A, 115D and 325E. It describes:
- Trends in toxic chemicals waste generation by Minnesota industrial sectors as directed by Minn. Stat.115D.10
- Architectural paint product stewardship program activities as directed by Minn. Stat. 115A.1415
- Electronics recycling program activities as directed by Minn. Stat. 115A.1310-1330
- Toxics in packaging program activities as directed by Minn. Stat. 115A.965
- Activities related to Priority Chemicals as relates to Minn. Stat. 116.9403
This report also offers recommendations to further reduce toxic chemical content in products sold and used in Minnesota.
In the report:
According to 2011 data from Minnesota’s 413 reporting facilities, generation of Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) chemical waste has increased in the past two years to exceed 2007 levels. This suggests that progress in pollution prevention among manufacturers has stalled.
However, the limits of TRI data should be understood. For some chemicals, the TRI may account for only a fraction of the chemical’s total volume in products and unintended releases to the environment during the life of a product or after its disposal. Bisphenol A (BPA) is one example, a chemical produced in the U.S. estimated at 2 billion pounds, with U.S. product demand driving some 3 billion pounds of global use.
The product stewardship program for managing architectural paint in Minnesota requires paint manufacturers to implement and finance such a program. Implementation began in November 2014.
Paint was selected for a product stewardship initiative base on its volume in the waste stream, cost to manage, and high potential for increased recovery and recycling. Minnesota’s counties spend approximately $5 million annually managing leftover paint, so the burden for disposal and recycling falls on the general taxpayer.
To address the growing amount of waste electronics in Minnesota and rising costs associated with properly managing these wastes, manufacturers of video display devices (TVs, computer monitors, laptops) are required to collect and recycle 80% by weight of their products sold in Minnesota. Electronic products contain lead and other heavy metals that are toxic if released into the environment. MPCA is working to identify ways to improve the program.
Reducing toxics in products
MPCA’s Pollution Prevention program promotes green chemistry and engineering, most recently through curriculum development grants awarded to several Minnesota post-secondary institutions and through exploration of toxics in products involving chemicals of high concern, such as bisphenol A, lead, and mercury.
Proposals for reducing lead and mercury in products, people, and the environment
- Prohibit the sale and installation of wheel weights containing lead or mercury.
- Update law to eliminate obsolete allowances for use of mercury thermometers.
- Harmonize and strengthen existing statutory requirements for manufacturers of thermostats and displacement relays to be responsible for end-of-life management of their products.
- Establish a flexible, product stewardship approach for mercury-containing lamps.
- Work with angling, conservation, and other interested parties to establish a pathway to measurably reduce the use of lead fishing tackle.
- Create an education campaign with hunting, conservation, food safety, and other interested parties for reducing the use of lead ammunition.
Reducing priority chemicals in products, people, and the environment
Recommendations from the report Options to Reduce and Phase-out Priority Chemicals in Children’s Products and Promote Green Chemistry offers a framework to guide future policies to close gaps, increase protection of citizens and the environment, and reduce the costs of future cleanup of toxics that could hamper economic development.
- Require manufacturers that produce or sell children’s products in Minnesota to report their use of priority chemicals in those products.
- Add incentives, resources, and revenue sources as needed.
- Establish formal green chemistry policies to direct the efforts of state agencies, technical assistance programs, and private sector businesses.
- Direct state agencies to educate Minnesotans about priority chemicals, the risk of priority chemicals, and ways residents can limit their exposure.
- Direct MPCA and Department of Administration to evaluate adapting Minnesota’s existing preferential purchasing initiatives to give preference to products that do not contain priority chemicals.
- Further enhance coordination among state agencies involved in pollution prevention and reducing toxics in products.