2015 Safer Chemistry Champion Award Winners


Tidal Vision

Tidal Vision has captured the potential of green chemistry by developing innovative new processing methods for seafood waste products. Tidal Vision has developed a safer method for extracting chitin from processed crustacean shells. Chitin and its derivative—chitosan—have antimicrobial and odor-fighting properties and could potentially replace nanosilver in clothing and other products. Chitin is 100% non-toxic and biodegradable.

Not only does Tidal Vision's unique process eliminate the use of harsh chemicals like sodium hydroxide and hydrochloric acid to extract the chitin, it creates a higher quality product and they are able to reuse up to 90% of their reaction solution. Their mobile pilot plant will travel to shellfish processors throughout Washington to process between 1 and 2 million pounds of crab shells between now and March 2016.

Tidal Vision also worked with a tannery in Buckley to develop a tanning process for salmon skin that uses only food-grade certified ingredients. Traditional aquatic leather tanning formulas use harsh chemicals such as formaldehyde and chrome-based chemicals. After tanning the salmon leather, Tidal Vision sews it into wallets or stitches it into leather sheets to sell to other designers.

Like crab shells, salmon skin is typically a low-value waste product used in fertilizer or dumped into the ocean where it can create algae blooms that lower dissolved oxygen levels. Tidal Vision turns low-value waste into high-value products without using toxic chemicals or creating dangerous waste.

Seattle Gymnastics Academy

In 2014, the Washington Toxics Coalition alerted Seattle Gymnastics Academy to the issue of flame retardants in loose foam. Gyms typically have loose foam block pits to create a soft landing for gymnasts learning new skills. The Academy paid for a study to test the dust in the gym and in employees' homes.

The study found toxic chemicals from fire retardants in both locations, with higher concentrations at the gym. They also contacted the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to perform wipe tests on employees' hands before and after their shifts. The tests showed that after a work shift, employees' hands had elevated levels of 12 different fire retardant chemicals and 3 fire retardant chemicals that weren’t there before they started.

As a result of these studies, the Academy found a new foam supplier and became the first gym in the United States to replace all of their loose foam with flame retardant-free foam. They also replaced the carpet around the foam pits, which tends to collect dust. When NIOSH returned to repeat the wipe test on employee's hands, the presence of flame retardant chemicals had dropped by two-thirds.

University of Washington's Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences

DEOHS staff assessed their lab practices for impacts on health and sustainability by collecting and analyzing data to characterize chemical use, energy consumption, and waste generation.

They identified two chemicals of concern and used GreenScreen™ and Ecology's Quick Chemical Assessment Tool (QCAT) to explore the hazards associated with the chemicals and to understand potential effects on worker health and the environment. The screenings also allowed them to compare possible alternative chemicals to avoid a regrettable substitution—replacing a hazardous chemical with one that has equally hazardous or unknown effects.

DEOHS also developed the Green Labs Webinar Series to share successes, challenges, and lessons learned from the projects. The webinars give lab managers, faculty, students, and sustainability offices best practices for promoting green chemistry, conserving energy, and reducing waste.

Staff say one of the most valuable outcomes of this project is more awareness about lab sustainability and resources. There has been increased and deliberate discussions about sustainability and how to integrate sustainability into lab practices.

Genzyme

Last year, Lynnwood pharmaceutical company Genzyme began an Orphan Chemical Program to send off-spec, expired, or rejected chemicals to be used by other companies or research institutions. Before the program began, this designated dangerous waste was lab-packed and incinerated. The program resulted in a 50% decrease in lab-packed waste, an overall 25% decrease in the company's total dangerous waste.

In addition to reducing dangerous waste by repurposing chemicals, the program reduced Genzyme's cost to transport and dispose of unneeded chemicals by 80%. This focus on reducing their environmental impact encouraged employees to look for other materials to repurpose as well.