Rise of Green Manufacturing
Consumers and manufacturers have become increasingly aware of the impact certain substances and/or manufacturing practices have on the environment. The phrase “carbon footprint” is no longer just spoken by insiders – being green is now a way of life in the manufacturing world.
In the last five years, environmental regulations have increased worldwide, especially in the U.S. The result has been cleaner air and water, and safer products such as phthalate-free linings in food cans and baby bottles. However, regulations have a major influence on manufacturing, your health and the environment.
Recent Regulations and Their Impact
The Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration are the primary federal agencies responsible for green manufacturing regulations, but many states and localities also have laws that may have stricter standards or that cover different substances than federal laws. The result? Manufacturers spend a great deal of effort monitoring regulations and managing their products to meet requirements.
If you’ve purchased a new car in the last several years or even read car ads, you will have seen a notation about whether the car meets California emission standards. California has long had strict rules to help alleviate its smog problem. In 2012 they passed regulations requiring at least 1.4 million electric or hybrid vehicles be manufactured by 2025.
Since California’s original regulation, several states adopted the same requirements. California Air Resources Board (CARB) states include: Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.
The federal standard will match the strict California mandate starting with the 2016 model year, and rules will get stricter through at least 2025.
These stringent regulations add cost to vehicles and complicate distribution for manufacturers, since only vehicles that met the standards could be sold in CARB states. The requirements affected the product design and manufacturing processes of hundreds of Tier 1 and Tier 2 automotive suppliers who had to redesign products such as carburetion, exhaust and ignition systems, and manufacture and stock multiple versions. However, these new regulations also led to major advances in automotive fuel efficiency, new alternative fuel vehicles, and more cost-effective hybrid autos. And, in the end, cleaner air.
Toxic Substance Control Act
Effective since June 2012, the EPA enacted the Toxic Substance Control Act, which regulates the manufacturing, distribution, sale and significant new use of 119 toxic substances. This act defines permitted procedures for four extremely toxic substances that require consent orders for use. The covered substances are defined in the Federal Register.
These regulations require strict reporting for all manufacturers who use or possess the covered substances. In addition, the regulations explain storage, handling and safety equipment requirements.
While the reporting and controls add cost and time, the result is less risk of environmental contamination.
International Regulations Overview
The U.S. is not alone in its concern for greener manufacturing. Many emerging industrial countries have begun introducing environmental regulations that cover production processes and disposal of waste products within their borders.
China, for example, once produced about 70 percent of their power needs using coal, which resulted in extremely poor air quality. China had ambitious government sponsored plans to convert to nuclear power production to alleviate the smog problem, but it was not as effective as planned. China is now the world’s second largest producer and consumer of wind power. China mow has regulations regarding solar water heating and wastewater treatment to create safer, cleaner manufacturing processes.
Since 2012, India has enacted strict recycling laws that cover recycling requirements, reducing the use of hazardous materials, and collection centers for safe storage and disposal of toxic substances.
Internationally, countries have enacted similar measures to enable a cleaner world. From controlling greenhouse gases to regulating the use of toxic chemicals, the global manufacturing industry has had to work closer with each of the various regional governments to ensure greener manufacturing practices and a cleaner, safer environment.
On a go forward basis, the challenges and complexity of green manufacturing are not going away. Increasingly, green thinking will expand across the entire product lifecycle – including well beyond when a product leaves a manufacturer’s plant. Advanced systems will be required to track products from “cradle to grave,” putting even more of an onus on manufacturers to improve their operational efficiency, traceability and recycling programs.
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