EPA Chief Praises TRSA Advocacy
EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe thanked TRSA members for adhering to their voluntary schedule for phasing out nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE) from detergent, calling it a “remarkable accomplishment” and “a symbol of partnership” between the agency and private interests. Speaking at TRSA’s Leadership & Legislative Conference in Washington, Perciasepe said EPA was pleased with TRSA’s report that 85% of members are now using NPE-free formulas and the other 15% are on schedule to make this change.
He acknowledged TRSA member efforts and warned that nonmembers are exposed to EPA inspections if they are not in compliance.
Now second-in-command at the agency, Perciasepe first worked personally with TRSA in the ‘90s as head of the agency’s Office of Water, when EPA planned to apply new federal effluent guidelines to industrial laundries. TRSA proved that existing local regulation of laundry wastewater adequately protected the environment and for the first time in the history of this federal program, the agency withdrew such a categorical standards proposal.
More recently, he guided the agency’s 2013 adoption of rules that enable shop towels to avoid regulation as solid waste. This prevents them from being classified as hazardous waste and subjected to costly transportation and disposal requirements. The new regulation codifies TRSA’s nearly 20-year-old best practices for handling solvent-contaminated wipers in customer locations and laundries.
Perciasepe said the wiper rule adoption (more than a decade in the making) and NPE phase-out fulfill the agency’s plans to cooperate more frequently with industry to develop alternative approaches to command-and-control regulation to improve the environment. The TRSA projects display “EPA ultimately working in partnership with an important business involved with a lot of other economic activities going on in the country, developing a shared vision of where we need to go. It’s a very important accomplishment.”
In EPA’s early years, potential gains were easier to target. Air and water pollution problems were visible: the agency fixed them by requiring control devices and cleanups. Today, moving ahead requires consulting private interests who can devise and implement effective solutions. Because of such collaboration, the textile services industry has more sustainable detergent and shop towel users have a better way to recycle and remove solvents. Both represent a “win-win for cost savings, efficiency and the overall economy.” Textile services have also benefited from EPA’s guidance from the Design for the Environment program, he noted.
Both the wiper rule and NPE phase-out must be continuing efforts, he noted. Because the rule amends the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which individual states interpret to implement, all must adopt the new terminology to maximize its effectiveness. In NPE’s case, the agency could make it illegal to use these compounds in detergent, but would rather see nonmembers comply voluntarily.
“We have a couple of tasks in front of us,” Perciasepe says, “but my main purpose in coming here was to thank you for your work and show you how it fits into the larger context of what we are trying to do.”