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2018 Champions of Toxics Use Reduction

Industry Champions

Kettle Cuisine of Lynn, a handcrafter of small batch, all natural soups for restaurants, foodservice operators and grocery retailers, worked to reduce the use of sodium hydroxide used for cleaning. The company partnered with Assistant Professor Boce Zhang at UMass Lowell to test safer alternatives and optimize chemical usage.

US Pack, Inc. of Leominster, a leading contract manufacturer of custom liquid specialty products, invested in capital equipment that makes clean up more efficient and produces more precise production batches. The solution, a pressure gravity filler, reduces the use of acetone, ethylene glycol and methanol used in manufacturing automotive, industrial and household cleaning products.

Lytron of Woburn, a designer and manufacturer of cold plates, chassis, chillers, cooling systems and heat exchangers, is phasing out trichloroethylene (TCE) from its cleaning process. The TURI Lab is testing the performance of safer solvents that can work in a vacuum cleaning system and identifying an aqueous cleaner that can remove lubricants from parts.

Academic Research Champion

Assistant Professor Boce Zhang of UMass Lowell’s Biomedical and Nutritional Sciences Department worked with Little Leaf Farms in Devens and Kettle Cuisine in Lynn to help the companies avoid or reduce the use of toxic cleaning chemicals. By analyzing the effectiveness of safer processes and materials, his research shows that the alternatives are effective and in compliance with food safety regulations.

Small Business Champions

Auto Collision Shop at Assabet Valley Technical High School of Marlboro purchased new equipment and water-based gun washing solution that eliminated the use of hazardous solvents. The effective and safer solution allows the school to filter and reuse the water-based solution for many years rather than disposing used solvent as hazardous waste. Students benefit from a healthier work environment while learning about environmentally-friendly practices to take with them into their work places after they graduate.

Little Leaf Farms of Devens opted to purchase a high-pressure washer to remove algae from the gutters where the lettuce grows rather than using harsh chemicals. The company worked with Assistant Professor Boce Zhang at UMass Lowell to verify that the gutters were clean and to evaluate the effectiveness of various temperature settings of the washer.

Walker’s Gymnastics and Dance of Lowell purchased new foam cubes that do not contain flame retardants for two landing pits used in the gym. While the landing pits provide safe cushioned landing spots as gymnasts train on the equipment, standard foam cubes contain hazardous flame retardant chemicals that can cause health effects such as endocrine disruption, which is of significant concern to young children.

Community Champions

The Field Fund, Inc. of Martha’s Vineyard works to preserve and maintain Martha’s Vineyard’s playing fields using an organic, systems-based approach rather than installing synthetic fields made from toxic materials. The goals are to protect young athletes from toxic exposures, preserve Martha’s Vineyard’s natural landscapes and protect ponds, fragile habitats and single source aquifer. To improve maintenance on natural grass playing fields, The Field Fund purchased an aerator, which is part of a larger effort to eliminate the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides on playing fields on Martha’s Vineyard.

Silent Spring Institute of Newton partnered with the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition to reduce high school students’ exposures to common carcinogens and endocrine-disrupting chemicals. The project team visited 12 high school science classrooms to help students identify common toxic chemical exposures in their homes and adopt strategies that reduce these exposures. The team developed a free mobile application, called Detox Me, that guides users through more than 270 research-based recommendations for reducing exposures to common indoor pollutants. Students also participated in a peer-to-peer mentoring program that connected them to youth who have participated in studies that measure chemical levels in the body.

Town of Williamstown residents approved a non-binding resolution in May 2017 declaring the town a pollinator-friendly community. The resolution seeks to change residential and institutional landscaping practices by promoting ways to reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides that scientists believe are harming bee populations. The project team hosted training programs for landscape professionals and home owners, conducted tours of pollinator-friendly gardens and worked with local partners on educational activities for adults and children, including planting a community pollinator garden on Town property. 

Worcester Public Schools undertook a significant new initiative to minimize the use of products containing asthmagens and hazardous chemicals in school buses and kitchens. The goal is to prevent transmission of pathogens, while maintaining a healthy environment for students and staff. The project team converted school bus and kitchen sanitation practices and products to systems that are safer for human health and the environment. Working with manufacturers, the project team piloted and evaluated safer cleaning and disinfection products, equipment and work practices for use on farm-to-table fresh produce and meats, kitchen surfaces and equipment and school buses.

Toxics Use Reduction Planner Champion

Maura Hawkins, Sr. Project Manager and President at Berkshire Environmental Consultants in Pittsfield, works with industrial clients, including gas, oil and biomass power generating facilities, on environmental regulatory, permitting and compliance projects. As a member of the first Toxics Use Reduction Planner certification course class, she has worked with more than 20 companies to create comprehensive and effective Toxics Use Reduction plans, resulting in significant toxic chemical reductions and financial savings for her clients. She has share her expertise with other planners by leading many TURA Continuing Education Conference sessions on topics such as characterizing and analyzing a company’s process and identifying opportunities to reduce chemicals in water and wastewater treatment systems.