IT’S NOT EASY BEING GREEN
We helped to protect the ozone layer. In fact, the U.S. EPA “Stratospheric Ozone Protection” award is proudly displayed in my office. Protecting the ozone layer, while necessary, was not sufficient. The concept of green still eludes us. The stakes are higher; the pathway to success is more complex.
Many of the chemicals that were initially instituted as replacements for ozone-depleters have themselves come under fire by safety and/or environmental regulatory agencies. We protected the stratospheric ozone layer, but often adopted substitutes that impact tropo - spheric (smog producing) ozone. Aqueous processes were adopted; but the impact of waste streams were either not understood or not adequately dealt with. As more studies were performed, issues of worker safety and neighborhood safety increased. With increasing regulatory scrutiny and given the costs to develop new cleaning chemistries, finding appropriate cleaning agents has become a challenge.
Environmental and worker safety regulations are becoming increasingly stringent. The “regulatory distress” of a given cleaning agent depends on a complex blend of local, regional, and national regulations. A given chemical may be either favored or essentially banned, depending on where you alight on this planet. Effective cleaning agents that can be readily adopted are decreasing, and may be sitespecific.
At the same time, manufacturers are faced with increasingly tough performance requirements. Mini - ature and micro-components as well as nano-based products all involve surfaces with exacting qualities and properties. Critical or precision cleaning activities have increased.
Perhaps in response to this complexity, there is a growing trend in some regulatory and industrial groups toward a more holistic view. The concept of cleaning operations that utilize principles of pollution prevention has been supplanted by the concept of sustainable cleaning processes. The concept of “cradle to cradle” is supplanting that of “cradle to grave” to describe manufacturing operations.