Industry, Materials & Waste Management

Policies that limit Short-Lived Climate Pollutants, industrial emissions, and material waste

Emission Standards

Short-Lived Climate Pollutant (SLCP) Standards

Short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) are greenhouse gases that remain in the atmosphere for a much shorter period of time than carbon dioxide, yet their potential to warm the atmosphere can be many times greater. Although SLCP emissions can be regulated separately from other air pollution control methods, they are often integrated into a larger air quality management program, since certain SLCPs are also dangerous air pollutants that have harmful effects for people and ecosystems. Two prominent SLCPs to limit through policy are hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and methane.

HFCs are entirely man-made, and mainly utilized in refrigeration, air-conditioning, insulating foams and aerosol propellants. Most HFCs are emitted from equipment as a result of wear, poor maintenance, or leakage at the end of a product’s lifetime. HFCs can be controlled through regulating their production and consumption. However, the best technique to reduce HFCs is by substituting different chemicals in their place.

Methane constitutes 10% of U.S. emissions and 20% of global emissions. It is released in a variety of ways, including drilling for oil and gas, mining for coal, agriculture, and waste treatment. Thus, proper methane regulations vary by the nature of the source, but commonly fall under the categories of oil and gas regulation, landfill management, agricultural management, or methane reduction plans.

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    Industrial Efficiency Standards and Incentives

    Energy efficiency standards establish a limit to energy use, or minimum efficiency, that equipment must achieve. Due to the variety of equipment used within industry, such standards may be complex. As a result, standards should be created to be technology neutral and based on performance features of the type of equipment being monitored, as opposed to the prescriptive design features of the equipment. They can also be used to determine early retirement of facilities, which aims to reduce inefficient, polluting plants with modern ones. 

    This policy would incentivize upgrades by financing rewards and/or penalties. However, for this policy to be effective it must be coupled with frequent reporting and monitoring of energy use to ensure that rewards are only given when efficiency targets are reached.

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      Buy Clean Standard

      From the Carbon Leadership Forum: Buy Clean is a procurement policy approach that aims to fill a current gap in climate policy by incorporating low-carbon construction purchasing requirements that address the greenhouse gas emissions from construction materials into government purchasing.

      Buy Clean policies use a combination of disclosure, incentives, and standards to leverage the significant purchasing power of public agencies to encourage a shift toward low-carbon options in the broader construction materials market. Buy Clean is an approach that can be applied at the federal, state, or local level and can also be used by private building owners. 

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        Fracking Regulation and Ban

        Fracking Regulation and Ban

        Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a technique in which large quantities of water, chemicals, and sand are used with high pressure to crack impermeable rock formations to release trapped gas and oil. Although fracking fluid mostly consists of water, it also contains chemicals, some of which are known or possible carcinogens regulated under the SDWA or listed as hazardous air pollutants. Common hazardous chemicals include methanol, ethylene glycol, and propargyl alcohol. Additionally, the full risk of these chemicals remains largely unknown to scientists suggesting that fracking could be more harmful to human health than we know.

        Banning fracking stops water supply depletion, prevents chemical contamination in drinking water, reduces air pollution and hazardous waste, and preserves healthy forests that are at risk of being turned into industrial zones. It should also be noted that some states do not have any oil and gas reserves and therefore cannot practice fracking.

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          Material Management

          Material Management

          The majority of industrial greenhouse gas emissions production stems from industries which manufacture materials used in other products. Thus, industrial emissions can be reduced with policies that reduce consumer demand for newly produced materials, while still maintaining a high quality for the consumer. This can be done through a variety of ways, such as increasing material efficiency, requiring product longevity, and providing recycling services/requirements. 

          Material efficiency entails designing products in ways which require less material. Product longevity requires that products are designed and engineered to last longer before they are replaced. Recycling reduces the use of new materials by deconstructing products for parts that can be used to repair or create similar products. Utilizing existing material as much as possible lessens the need to manufacture new products. Industry can further the ability to fix, deconstruct, and recycle the materials in products through design and manufacturing.

          Common materials/products for state policy to focus on include:

          • Plastic products such as bags, bottles, and packaging
          • Raw construction materials
          • Appliances and electronics

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            Waste Reduction

            Waste Reduction

            This policy decreases demand for waste management through methods such as water conservation, combined heat-and-power, and landfill monitoring. It is also concerned with reducing methane emissions from waste by increasing the capture of methane that is currently being released into the atmosphere. Methane, roughly 50% of landfill gas, stems from the decomposition of organic material under anaerobic conditions. To counteract this, landfill gas can be captured and used to generate electricity or to replace another fuel, such as gas or coal. 

            Also known as combined-heat-and-power (CHP), cogeneration is a way in which heat and energy are generated at the same time. Using a fuel to jointly produce heat and electricity is more efficient and cost-effective than producing heat and electricity separately. It also greatly reduces emissions such as carbon and methane. Most wastewater is treated in aerobic conditions, so little methane is generated. However, biosolids that remain after treatment can produce methane, but have been used beneficially in reclamation efforts at industrial sites such as mining. Captured biogas through anaerobic digesters can also be used to generate electricity and heat, such as in cogeneration.

            Source: Energy Policy Solutions

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