Potato Plastic: Swedish Design Student finds a Solution for Reducing our Plastic Consumption


Several million tons of plastic waste pollute the environment every year, and disposable or single-use plastic is a significant contributor to the problem. In response, a student from Gothenburg has been able to find the solution to the problem with "Potato Plastic", an environmentally-friendly alternative to the use of disposable plastic in the fast-food industry.

Behind the invention is Pontus Törnqvist, 24, winner of the Swedish leg of the James Dyson Award 2018. This is the first time the award has run in Sweden.

Potato Plastic consists only of potato starch and water. It is heated until the liquid thickens, then placed in moulds and heated to solid. The resulting material is a kind of thermoplastic – a plastic created by heating which hardens when cooled – meaning that it is mouldable, and can be shaped into any form. For the fast-food industry, from cutlery and straws to salt and pepper bags. Because Potato Plastic is made of only naturally-occurring substances, the products take just two months to decompose.

Originally from Gothenburg, Pontus Törnqvist studies Industrial Design at Lund University. As Swedish National Winner of the James Dyson Award 2018, he receives 22,000 SEK to develop Potato Plastic - and a chance to win the international final of the competition.

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2023: Climate Change Tipping Point -- Hothouse Earth & The rise of the Anthropocene

The world could hit a tipping point that causes warming to spiral out of control — a scenario scientists call 'Hothouse Earth'

Humans have changed the world's climate systems by emitting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

  • According to a new paper, humans could warm the world so much that we'd cause the planet's natural climate systems to trigger further warming — a scenario called "Hothouse Earth."
  • In that world, the average temperature could rise 4 or 5 degrees Celsius more than it already has, leading to extreme heat and up to 200 feet of sea-level rise.

Our ability to keep Earth habitable may be more limited than we realize.

Human activity could push the planet over a number of tipping points that would cause global temperatures to rise even higher than we've driven them already, according to a new paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The research suggests that certain natural systems on the planet could be activated by warming and consequently trigger further warming. In that situation, Earth's average temperature might reach 4 or 5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures. (For context, the goal of the Paris agreement was to prevent temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees C.)

The paper's authors refer to this scenario as "Hothouse Earth."

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Study: Parents Who Are Addicted To Their Cell Phones Affect Their Children’s Development

Technology is everywhere and is here to stay. We have it in our homes, offices, schools, and always easily accessible in the palm of our hand thanks to smartphone technology. While there are thousands of positive changes technology has made and continues to make in our daily lives, it’s no secret that it also comes with its cons.

Most often, the older generations like to point fingers at the Millenials and younger generations for being attached to their technology, the reality is that parents and older adults aren’t any better! As adults spend more and more time on their phones, tablets, and laptops, what impact is that having on the mental health and development? This new study shows that parental screen time is more impactful than you might think. 

Too Much Screen Time Causes Behavioral Problems in Toddlers and Kids

We know that too much time spent on social media and with technology can have a negative impact on both physical and mental health in adults, and that kids who spend hours glued to screens don’t fare any better. A new study from the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital shows that the amount of time parents spend staring at their own screens has a devastating impact on the mental health and development of their children.

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The Inconvenient Truth between EMF (Wi-Fi) Radiation & Infertility

Yes, the proof is in: EMF radiation can even cause infertility!

That's why since early 2000, schools & hospitals in European countries have implemented "Wi-Fi Bans" in order to protect vulnerable people & children from EMF exposures... "Electromagnetic and radiation pollution can challenge the immune system to such an extent that conception ability is reduced in two ways: 1) sperm count can be negatively affected, and 2) egg quality can be harmed. This can come from cell phones, computers, wireless networks in the home, and power lines." — Full article (Vitality Magazine - July 2018 issue)

Why multiple countries have banned Wi-fi cellphones around schools, young children and fetuses?


Please do share the above important info with our loved ones (near or far)!

If more of us are aware of this issue, our collective people power should lead to much needed revisions on the current totally-out-dated industrial policies regarding Wi-Fi and its reception towers...

Let's aim for a better, safer, healthier world for our future generations!

Expert Says: New 5G Wireless Radiation Could Pose Significant Health Risk

5G and IoT: a Trojan horse (originally published in Magazine La Maison)

By Paul Héroux, Ph.D., Professor of Electromagnetic Toxicology, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University

Endorsed by Dr David O. Carpenter M.D., Richard Conrad, Ph.D., Devra Davis Ph.D., Olle Johansson Ph.D., Don Maisch, Ph.D., Sam Milham, M.D.,Anthony B. Miller, M.D., L. Lloyd Morgan, Eng., Hugo Schooneveld, Ph.D.,Fernand Turcotte, M.D., Louise Vandelac, Ph.D.

An inconvenient truth denied by industry

Today, the wireless industry dreams of deploying its new 5G (fifth generation) infrastructure in your neighbourhood soon, as it has begun doing in California. Boxes the size of a PC could be placed every 150 meters or so on utility poles, sometimes with small-refrigerator-sized boxes on the ground. 5G technology uses pulsed, millimeter-sized microwaves that are easily blocked by obstacles such as leaves, hence the need to install millions of cell signal boosters near homes.

The telecoms say this is the most efficient way to ease the digital congestion caused by audio-video streaming, whose global traffic, according to American giant Cisco, will be eleven times higher in 2018 than in 2014. Data would move through fibre optic cables, but rather than bringing these cables to your home, the last leg of the data’s journey would generally be wireless… As markets work, personal mobile phone subscriptions are more profitable than the higher speed fibre optic connections linked to desktops through your own router.

The 5G network would also support the huge increase in wireless communications to be created by the Internet of Things (IoT). Since most people already own a cell phone, industry wants to expand its market by embedding a cellular microchip into most manufactured goods. Therefore, items purchased in the future would generate data to be collected by companies and, ultimately, by governments. 5G-IoT is promoted by the promise of “smart” cities, leading to a more comfortable, convenient and efficient life. But besides a relentless expansion of sales, 5G-IoT will strengthen mobile phones as a platform for publicity and population control. Further, 5G-IoT deployment carries significant health risks.

On September 13, 180 scientists and physicians from 35 countries signed a call to action (see “Scientists warn of potential serious health effects of 5G”) demanding a moratorium on 5G deployment until its radiation levels are proven safe, particularly for children and pregnant women. Indeed, all these inter-connected objects would significantly increase radiation from electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in our environment.

And yet, aware of the enormous potential of this market, engineers managed to have these radiations characterized as harmless, through 50 years of sustained efforts, by infiltrating and monopolizing standardization committees. Don’t worry, they say, if the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the World Health Organization, classified low- and high-frequency electromagnetic fields as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”, in 2001 and in 2011 respectively. Don’t worry either that a study funded by the US National Toxicology Program confirmed the causal link between brain cancer and cell phone use. Ignore, they say, thousands of scientific publications documenting since the 1960s1 the harmful effects of chronic, low level exposure to microwave radiation, including more recent studies included in the 2007 and 2012 Bioinitiative Reports. Forget also that these radiations have been linked to diabetes, lower human fertility, cardiac disturbances, several neurological diseases and genetic changes.


Related news:

The "Power Off and Play" Healthy Kids Community Challenge (HKCC) is all about helping Ontario children make healthy choices.

Did you know that kids between 5-17 yrs old should have less than 2 hours of screen time allowed per day? While toddlers should have none??

Over the next several months, our HKCC community will be working to encourage children and families to build a balanced day that is not filled with screen time.

Screen time affects many aspects of children's health. While research is still emerging, it suggests that screen time can harm children's early development and physical and psycho-social health. So it's time to get your kids outside and play!

HKCC Fact Sheet & Solutions:

Background Info:

"The Answer is in Nature" on World Water Day (Mar 22)

"How can we reduce floods, droughts, and water pollution?
By using the solutions we already find in nature..."  ~ World Water Day 2018

This year’s theme – Nature for Water – explores how we can use nature to overcome the water challenges of the 21st century.

Environmental damage, together with climate change, is driving the water-related crises we see around the world. Floods, drought and water pollution are all made worse by degraded vegetation, soil, rivers and lakes.

When we neglect our ecosystems, we make it harder to provide everyone with the water we need to survive and thrive.

Nature-based solutions have the potential to solve many of our water challenges. We need to do so much more with ‘green’ infrastructure and harmonize it with ‘grey’ infrastructure wherever possible. Planting new forests, reconnecting rivers to floodplains, and restoring wetlands will rebalance the water cycle and improve human health and livelihoods.

Climate and environment:

• The number of people at risk from floods is projected All information in this factsheet comes from UNESCO (2018) United Nations World Water Development Report 2018: Nature-based solutions for water unless specified otherwise. 3 to rise from 1.2 billion today to around 1.6 billion in 2050 – nearly 20% of the world’s population.
• Today, around 1.8 billion people are affected by land degradation and desertification. At least 65% of forested land is in a degraded state.
• An estimated 64-71% of natural wetlands have been lost since 1900 as a result of human activity.
• Soil erosion from croplands carries away 25 to 40 billion tonnes of topsoil every year, significantly reducing crop yields and the soil’s ability to regulate water, carbon and nutrients. The runoff, containing large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous, is also a major contributor to water pollution.


Restoring forests, grasslands and natural wetlands, reconnecting rivers to floodplains, creating buffers of vegetation along water courses – these are all examples of NBS that help the management of water availability and quality. Most NBS, including in urban landscapes, essentially involve the management of vegetation, soils and/or wetlands, including rivers and lakes. NBS are not a panacea to the critical water-related challenges we face as the global population grows, but they can provide innovative and cost-effective options for supplementing insufficient or ageing water infrastructure.


NBS for managing water supply and quality support the achievement of all targets in Goal 6: to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

NBS can also play a role in a range of other Sustainable Development Goals:
• Goal 1: No poverty, Goal 2: Zero hunger, Goal 3: Good health: New jobs are often created by NBS, and improved health from better quality water means higher productivity.
• Goal 7: Affordable, clean energy, Goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure, Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities, Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production: NBS require little or no energy and so can reduce reliance on energy-hungry grey systems. They also help provide more sustainable water resources to serve growing settlements.
• Goal 14: Life below water, Goal 15: Life on land: Wetlands can reduce pollution by filtration and increase biodiversity by expanding natural habitats.


Sponge cities, China
The China Government has launched the ‘Sponge City’ initiative to improve water availability in urban settlements. City authorities will use a combination of NBS and grey infrastructure to reduce urban water-logging, improve local ecosystems, and retain urban runoff for eventual reuse. By 2020, the 16 pilot cities will implement a range of measures, such as green roofs and walls, permeable pavements, and bioswales (constructed filtration channels) to capture water and divert it back into revitalized natural storage for irrigation and cleaning purposes during periods of drought. The project’s objective is for 70% of rain water to be absorbed and reused through improved water permeation, retention and storage, purification and drainage, as well as water saving and reuse. This goal should be met by 20% of urban areas by the year 2020 and by 80% of urban areas by the year 2030.

To learn more:

Related links:

Water JPI Newsletter (Mar 2018)

Good Green Death Project to minimize their carbon footprint

Park People Exhibit showcases life along the Annex's green line

What does China's "Ecological Civilization" means for Humanity's Future?

More & More CEOs are Taking their Social Responsibility Seriously

Mar 24: Earth Hour Switches Lights Off around the World

Apr 22: Earth Day Aims to End Plastic Pollution

May 5-6: Jane's Walk 2018 is Hiring!

Cellphone Health: How to Safeguard Our Bodies?

In just a few decades, cellphones have totally taken over our lives. When was the last time you had to pull a map out of the glove compartment to navigate somewhere? Or had to stand out in the rain to hail a cab?

But are our devices completely safe? Are potential cellphone health impacts something to worry about?

We haven’t been using cellphones long enough to fully study long-term impacts or conclude that using them definitively causes specific diseases. But then again, it took decades to prove a surefire link between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer, too.

Possible Cellphone Health Impacts

Now, I’m not suggesting we all ditch our phones. But the following findings may give you reasons to take some commonsense safety precautions to minimize your risk.

Brain Cancer

Cellphones emit non-ionizing radiation, which are radio waves known as a type of electromagnetic radiation. We do know that human tissue closest to cellphone antennas absorb some of this energy.  (1)

While studies linking cellphone use to brain cancer bring mixed results, the chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society did give credence to a particular research project. In 2016, the U.S. National Toxicology Program released data related to the agency’s large-scale, $25 million study investigating cellphone use and cancer risk. The results? Very high signal cellphone radiation did result in a slightly increased risk of malignant gliomas in the brain. Risk of schwannomas, rare tumors that develop on the nerve sheath of the heart, also increased with cellphone use. As the dose of radiation increased, so did cancer risk. (2, 3)

The World Health Organization listed cellphone radiation as a 2B carcinogen in 2011. That classification means cellphone radiation is “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” (4)

Medical literature does suggest that beginning cellphone use during teenage years results in a four-to-five times higher risk of a brain cancer diagnosis. (5)

Thyroid Trouble

In a first-of-its-kind study published in the Oman Medical Journal,researchers found students who moderately and heavily used cellphones in talk mode experienced a significant alteration to thyroid stimulating hormone levels. (Higher than normal TSH levels, and low average T4 levels were observed.) That may not seem like a big deal, except that even tiny changes to thyroid hormone levels can alter brain function. The study authors say “based on these results, it may be concluded that electromagnetic fields emitted by mobile phones may cause some detrimental effects on thyroid function.” (6)Cellphone radiation may trigger negative effects on the hypothalamic-pituitary thyroid axis, throwing off normal thyroid hormone levels. (7) However, a 2016 study published in International Radiation Biology found no link between cellphone electromagnetic radiation and thyroid cancer. (8)

Sperm Damage

Men, please think twice about keeping your cellphone in your pocket or clipped to your belt. Sperm of men exposed to cellphone radiation die three times faster than those unexposed to the radiation. The sperm also experience three times the level of mitochondrial DNA damage, too. Not good news for men’s health or fertility. (9)

Cellphone Health: Protect Yourself

When it comes to cellphone radiation, it’s better to be safe than sorry. You can drastically reduce your exposure without giving up your device. Here are some common-sense tips:

  • Text instead of talking whenever possible, and use speaker mode or use a hands-free kit when you do make calls.

  • When talking on your cellphone, hold it an inch or more away from your head.

  • Make only short or essential calls on cellphones.

  • Avoid carrying your phone against the body, like in a pocket sock or bra.

  • Don’t talk on the phone or text while driving.

  • If you plan to watch a movie on your device, download it first, then switch to airplane mode while you watch.

  • If you can, avoid making calls when you have a weaker signal. Radiation is higher when your bars are lower.

  • Avoid making calls in cars, elevators, trains and buses. Cellphones work harder to push a signal through metal, so radiation increases.

  • Keep cellphones away from children and out of their mouths. (10)

Final Thoughts on Cellphone Health Threats

  • We’ve only been heavily using cellphones since the 1990s. That’s not enough time to get a full scope of potential long-term health impacts in humans. Remember, it took decades to draw a conclusive link between lung cancer and cigarette smoking.

  • Studies linking cellphones to cancer, particularly brain cancer, are mixed. But several recent well-designed studies suggests cellphone use could slightly increase the risk of certain types of brain cancers.

  • Electromagnetic radiation from cellphones could also tinker with hormone health, sleep patterns, mental health and more.

  • You can drastically reduce your exposure to cellphone radiation using simple tactics like texting by holding the phone away from your body instead of making long calls, keeping the phone on airplane or away from you while you sleep and not keeping your phone on your body all day.

Related Links:

Blue Zone Lessons on Healthy Living

Here comes another "Blue Zones" Lesson on living happily & healthy beyond modern day's life expectancy...

New book explores habits of Japan’s longest-living people.
Ikigai is a Japanese concept that roughly translates to “the happiness of always being busy.” More broadly, it means having a purpose or reason for living. A new book called Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life was written by Spaniards Héctor García and Francesc Miralles, who came up with the idea while chatting in a bar in Tokyo. Could ikigai, they wondered, be the reason Japan has the highest life expectancy in the world (86.8 years for women and 80.5 years for men, according to the World Health Organization), and lays claim to the highest ratio of people who live to the age of 100 or beyond?
To explore that question, Héctor and Francesc decided to interview Japan’s centenarians in person. After a year of research, they decamped for Ogimi, a rural town of 3,200 on the north end of the island of Okinawa. Ogimi has been nicknamed the Village of Longevity, as people live longer here than in any other place on the planet.
This distinction, of course, wouldn’t mean much if these elders turned out to be frail, sickly and depressed. But, as Héctor and Francesc discovered, the longest-living people in the world exude happiness, friendliness and a remarkable vigor. (One woman who had recently turned 104 beat the authors in gateball, a fast-paced, croquet-like sport popular among Okinawa’s older residents.)
As they conducted their interviews with the eldest residents of the town, the authors recognized that something even more powerful than the area’s rich natural resources and beauty was at work: “an uncommon joy that flows from its inhabitants and guides them through the long and pleasurable journey of their lives.”
Here are some regular habits that help the elders of Ogimi cultivate ikigai.

They stay busy without hurrying.
The older residents of Ogimi are always doing something, and they approach each activity attentively and slowly, whether preparing tea or crafting objects out of wicker. Every single elder the authors spoke to has a vegetable garden they tend to daily. As one centenarian noted, “I plant my own vegetables and cook them myself. That’s my ikigai.”

They nurture connections with friends every day.
Ogimi is divided into 17 neighborhoods and each one has a president and other community members in charge of things like culture, festivals, social activities and longevity. There are few restaurants and no bars in Ogimi. Instead, social life revolves around the community center where everyone gathers frequently for celebrations and events such as birthday parties, weekly gateball competitions and karaoke.
Read more about Okinawa: Secrets to a Happy Life

They move throughout the day.
Even the Ogimi townspeople who are over 80 and 90 years old are still highly active. They don’t go to the gym or exercise intensely, but they are on the move during the course of their daily routines. Most get up early and spend an hour or so before or after breakfast tending their gardens. They meet friends for walks. And almost everyone follows a morning warm-up called “radio taiso,” gentle exercises that were first introduced to Japan through radio broadcasts in 1928. The movements, such as lifting your arms above your head and circling them to your sides, are simple and take only a few minutes. But they’re an effective, low-intensity form of dynamic stretching that helps keep residents limber. Try the calisthenics yourself with this brief video.

They eat healthy foods in moderation.
Okinawans, research has shown, eat a diet rich in vegetables and herbs, and low in animal products. Daily staples, like seaweed, sweet potatoes, green tea and miso, are high in antioxidants. Okinawans consume one-third as much sugar and nearly half as much salt as the rest of Japan. Locals, the authors note, eat a wide variety of foods, especially vegetables and spices—an average of 18 different foods a day. They also consume fewer calories—1,758 per day compared to 2,068 in the rest of Japan and an estimated 2,200 to 3,300 calories in the U.S. The Okinawan diet is built around nutrient-dense, low-calorie vegetables and fruits. They also subscribe to the Japanese concept of hara hachi bu, which means “fill your belly to 80 percent.” In other words, stop eating before you feel completely full.

They connect with nature every day.
Okinawans spend time in nature—often while moving and engaging with friends. One Ogimi centenarian sums it up this way: “I wake up at 5 every morning, leave the house and walk to the sea. Then I go to a friend’s house, and we have tea together. That’s the secret to a long life: getting together with people, and going from place to place.”
Find Your Blue Zone for a Long and Happy Life:
More about "Blue Zone Project":

5 Disruptive Technologies Driving Circular Economy

Increased transparency, new customer expectations and emerging technologies are disrupting traditional sources of competitiveness.

From mobile to machine learning, big data to blockchain, seemingly there’s no end to what technology can enable or improve.

As we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution, new technologies carry immense opportunities to transform the way we do business. These technologies are driving new ways of creating value in a circular economy, for both emerging and established businesses alike.

Given the fragility of the linear economy, based on its reliance on finite natural resources for growth, and as we move ever closer to the brink of our planet’s boundaries, it seems companies with their heads in the clouds could be the key to unlocking the value in a regenerative, recycling economy.

Technology and sustainability

Technological advancement has catalyzed the development and implementation of circular business models, driving new processes, new communication channels and new operational efficiencies that enable the decoupling of resource use from economic growth across industries and on a global scale.

Digital, physical and biological technologies are quickly maturing and, in some cases, demonstrating exponential growth in their application and uptake.

While digital technologies are based on computer sciences, electronics and communication, physical technologies focus on the basic property of materials, energy, forces of nature and their interaction. Meanwhile, biological technologies are primarily based on the structure and function of living organisms, their systems or the derivatives thereof.

Together, this combination of technologies gives an injection of momentum to disrupt current industry models. Here's a selection of leaders.

1. Rubicon Global (cloud, big data)

Rubicon’s cloud-based, big-data platform connects waste producers with a network of independent waste haulers across 50 states in the US and Canada, as well as 18 more countries. This enables higher diversion rates from landfill, creative reuse of waste material, optimized truck routes and the detailed analysis of waste data.

2. NCC (mobile)

Through their open eco-system, Loop Rocks platform, NCC are allowing the inherently asset-heavy construction industry to become more resource efficient. Their app makes waste from over 600 sites available to other companies at a reduced price, optimising the handling of waste and secondary masses in a smarter, cost-effective and more environmentally conscious manner.

"It seems companies with their heads in the clouds could be the key to unlocking the value in a regenerative, recycling economy."

3. Hello Tractor (machine-to-machine communication and mobile)

Based in Nigeria, Hello Tractor uses mobile technology to enable over 250,000 small-hold farmers to obtain tractor services on demand, improving their food and income security. Furthermore, the tractors are fitted with M2M technology to share information on the vehicle and its efficiency, in turn maximizing the use, extending the tractor's usable lifecycle and increasing the value yielded from the machine.

4. Apple (robotics)

Liam, Apple’s iPhone disassembly robot, has 29 arms and is capable of dismantling a discarded iPhone in 11 seconds, and separating its component parts into usable materials, capturing the value from previously discarded resources at an unprecedented rate. To date, Apple has captured 61 million pounds of material that is reusable in future products, including 2,204 pounds of gold, to a value of $40 million.

5. gCycle (bio-based materials)

Pioneers in the eco-friendly diaper industry, gCycle’s gDiaper is the world’s first certified cradle-to-cradle, 100 percent compostable children’s diaper. By replacing oil-based plastic with non-GMO corn biofilm, gDiapers allow childcare centers to divert 80 percent of their waste stream from landfill.

Technology is central to enabling and driving value in the circular economy. The importance and role of it is recognized by the Circulars, the world’s premier circular economy award program.


Related link:

What Happened to Canada's Economic Competitiveness?

A Conversation with Amory Lovins: Rocky Mountain Institute @35

The Right Chemistry: A Business Prescription for Reducing Toxic Chemical Use

Amidst the conversation about the need for reduced use of toxic chemicals and greater investment in "greener" chemistries for products, industrial processes and supply chains, a core question is "What’s the business case?" or sometimes simply, "What’s in it for me?"

A new compilation of case studies by the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) at UMass Lowell and the Massachusetts Office of Technical Assistance (OTA) offers some answers.

As proponents of green chemistry and pollution prevention often point out, reducing the use of toxic chemicals can produce business benefits including lower costs for waste disposal, raw materials, worker protection or liability coverage; increased production efficiency; reduced sick days and more. The decision also could come with marketing advantages. Of course, like other forms of company improvements, toxic chemicals use reduction sometimes requires an upfront investment.

"Not every toxics use reduction project leads to financial savings, but many do."

The Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Act (TURA) focuses on reducing the use of toxic chemicals as a means to protect human health and the environment, while supporting the competitiveness of Massachusetts businesses. Agencies responsible for helping implement TURA, including TURI and OTA, provide technical assistance, training and grants.

The new TURI report reviews the experience of several Massachusetts businesses that have worked to reduce their use of toxic chemicals. The companies range in size from family businesses with a handful of employees to multinational organizations with many thousands of workers. Some have saved money as a result of their work to reduce toxics. Others have opted to make changes that increased costs but offered other benefits. Below are some highlights from the case studies, organized by industry sector.

Cleaning up dry cleaning

Many dry-cleaning facilities are very small, family-run and often immigrant-owned businesses. It's common for them to clean clothing using perchloroethylene (perc), a toxic solvent that carries hazards related to worker exposure as well as exposure of the general population.

Beginning in 2008, TURI began providing technical assistance and grants to help these operations invest in professional wet cleaning equipment and eliminate the use of perc.

The grants ease the financial risk these small businesses faced in adopting new technology, but the switch makes sense even without the assistance. A financial analysis for five of these cleaners found that all saved money after investing in the new equipment. Over a 15-year period, the net present value associated with the investment in wet cleaning ranged from just over $28,000 to just under $475,000.

Rethinking decorative chrome plating

The market for decorative chrome plating in the United States has declined as manufacturing has shifted overseas, but toxics use reduction has helped some Massachusetts businesses weather these changing global markets.

One company, Columbia Manufacturing in Westfield, undertook a major facility upgrade, installing a new plating line as well as a closed-loop water treatment system. The changes yielded large reductions in chemical and water use and tripled the facility’s plating capacity.

Business representatives credit these improvements with keeping the company in business. From 2001 to 2015, Columbia calculated that its cumulative savings were about $3.85 million for nickel, $800,000 for chromium trioxide and $3 million for water and sewer costs.

Another business, Independent Plating in Worcester, has adopted a number of toxics use reduction techniques; some saved money while others increased costs. The business eliminated its use of cyanide compounds, reduced its use of virgin hydrochloric acid and eliminated the handling of liquid hydrofluoric acid, a highly toxic chemical. All these changes yielded cost savings.

Independent Plating converted its largest nickel chrome plating line from hexavalent to trivalent chromium, a safer alternative.

In 2012, with assistance from a TURI grant, Independent Plating converted its largest nickel chrome plating line from hexavalent to trivalent chromium, a safer alternative. The trivalent chromium plating line has higher annual operating costs but allows the business to meet customer demands for a safer alternative to hexavalent chromium.

Several of Independent Plating’s customers were able to qualify their products for green certifications and LEED points as a result of their supplier's shift to trivalent chromium. Independent Plating reports that the changes it has undertaken have improved the health and safety environment in the plant and that, overall, the reduction in chemical use has reduced costs and improved margins.

Reengineering biotechnology

ChemGenes, a small biotechnology firm based in Wilmington, invested in a new chromatography system as part of its commitment to toxics use reduction, making it possible to decrease its annual use of the solvents chloroform and hexane. Its adoption of the new chromatography system led to savings on chemical purchasing, hazardous waste disposal and other associated costs. From 2007 to 2012, cumulative savings exceeded $215,000, or about $43,000 per year. These savings have continued to accrue since then. They helped ChemGenes to grow, and the business hired four new staff.

The success of this project created momentum for a second toxics use reduction endeavor, the installation of a solvent recovery system. This system reduced ChemGenes' use of additional chemicals and allowed for substantial savings in chemical purchase costs. It also reduced the company's costs for transportation, insurance and disposal of hazardous waste. These savings were counterbalanced by additional annual operating costs related to maintenance, quality control and other activities, but net savings are estimated at just under $4,000 annually and are expected to last for the life of the equipment.

New approaches for paints and coatings

Stainless Steel Coatings, which hails from Lancaster, manufactures an industrial coating used in corrosive and high-impact applications. The company undertook several chemical substitutions, including eliminating the use of hexavalent chromium in one of its key products, a primer used with a polyurethane coating.

The alternative was more expensive than the hexavalent chromium-containing product. However, overall costs were reduced because a smaller amount of the replacement chemical was required in the formulation. Net input costs were equivalent after the substitution.

Remaking electronics manufacturing

The New England Lead-Free Electronics Consortium, convened and coordinated by TURI and UMass Lowell, brought together more than 25 businesses both within and outside Massachusetts to work collaboratively.

Between 2001 and 2011, the businesses worked collaboratively to test a range of lead-free materials for use in electronics applications. The consortium was able to show that lead-free electronics assembly produced results that were equal to or better than what had been achieved with lead, and that lead-free options were also effective for rework (repair) applications.

Driving new processes for auto body and auto repair shops

Auto repair and auto body shops use a variety of solvents and other toxic chemicals for parts cleaning and other tasks. This can lead to worker exposures on a routine basis, often affecting workers who lack access to training and appropriate personal protective equipment.

Mike’s Auto Body in Fall River used a TURI grant to purchase a lead-free wheel weight system, a new gun washing unit and a new set of brake cleaning and degreasing products. For wheel cleaning, Mike’s switched from a product containing highly hazardous hydrofluoric acid to a safer product. Some of these products cost more, and others cost less, but overall, after making these changes, Mike’s achieved annual savings of about $1,300.

The bottom line

Not every toxics use reduction project leads to financial savings, but many do. Even in the cases in which a business doesn’t save money, toxics use reduction can yield competitiveness benefits, including customer retention and product quality improvement. And of course, financial impacts are not the only consideration.

In more than one case, a pregnancy in the family motivated a dry cleaner to shift to wet cleaning. Other businesses emphasized the impact on employee morale of the toxics use reduction process and the positive recognition it can bring.

So the next time you are pushing to reduce toxic chemical use in your business and you’re asked, "What’s the business case?" add these cases.