Brattleboro (Vermont) Reformer; April 23, 2010
By HOWARD WEISS-TISMAN, Reformer Staff
BRATTLEBORO — A Brattleboro organization has been recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency for its work in helping remove toxic metals from packaging.
The Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse, a group that has been in Brattleboro for 20 years, was one of three groups from Vermont honored by EPA at an Earth Day ceremony held in Boston on Thursday afternoon.
The Episcopal Diocese of Vermont, which did energy audits at all of its buildings within the 49 parishes, and the city of Burlington, which addressed deficiencies in its wastewater plant to protect Lake Champlain, also won 2010 Environmental Merit Awards during a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day held Thursday at Faneuil Hall.
The Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse helps its 10 member states crack down on wholesale and retail companies that are allowing metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium in products such as labels, inks and packaging.
In 1992, following the Model Toxics in Packaging Legislation, the group came together to help states identify companies that are not following the environmental law.
Over the past few years, the clearinghouse has used X-ray technology to screen more than 750 packaging samples to detect the presence of heavy metals regulated by state laws.
The Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse is a program within the Northeast Recycling Council, which is also in Brattleboro, and Northeast Recycling Council Executive Director Lynn Rubinstein said the award Thursday was an important recognition of the work the group has been doing for the past two decades.
"This is a tremendous program and we are very excited about the award," Rubinstein said Thursday while members of the Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse were in Boston at the EPA ceremony. "The members have been working very diligently and they have made huge strides over the last few years. It is exciting to see them recognized like this."
Vermont has adopted the legislation but is not a member of the Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse.
New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island are three of the 10 states that have contracts with the Brattleboro-based organization.
EPA has been giving out the Environmental Merit Awards since 1970 to individuals and groups that have worked to protect the environment.
"Today, on this milestone anniversary of Earth Day, I’d like to acknowledge and honor people, communities and businesses that have made significant strides in protecting New England’s health," EPA regional administrator Curt Spalding said in a press release.
When states sign on with the Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse the group assists the states so all of the technical and bureaucratic challenges are handled through a single source
The group also tests packaging and holds companies accountable if the tests show the presence of metals.
Lead and cadmium are routinely used in many packaging materials.
Over the past few years the organization has been focusing on large retailers and Wal Mart made major changes to how it procures packaging after Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse members spoke to the national retailer.
Earlier this year, the state of New Hampshire fined Barnes & Noble for alleged violation of the state’s Toxics in Packaging law.
The state alleged that the book stores were distributing bags that contained high levels of lead.
"Their efforts have resulted in the removal of significant amounts of toxic packaging from the environment," Rubinstein said. "We hope this will help spread the word and more people will hold manufacturers and retailers accountable.