Every day, a wide range of products are used that flow into our waterways, including cleaners, industrial chemicals and wastewater treatment products. To reduce their impact on the environment, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed the Safer Choice Label with additional approvals for direct release products. The label identifies chemicals that are approved and safe for use in products released directly into the environment. For formulators developing direct release products, it’s important to understand the details of the EPA Safer Choice program, and which chemicals have direct release approval.
What is Direct Release?
Direct release refers to the intentional or unintentional release of pollutants or other substances directly into the environment, without any treatment or disposal. This can include releases into surface water, groundwater, or the soil, and can occur from a variety of sources, such as wastewater treatment facilities, agricultural operations, and consumer and industrial cleaning products.
Direct release of harmful chemicals can have significant negative impacts on the environment and public health, as pollutants and other substances can contaminate water sources, harm aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, and pose risks to human health through exposure or consumption of contaminated water or food.
To prevent or minimize the negative impacts of direct release, regulatory agencies such as the EPA have established guidelines and standards for the management and disposal of pollutants and other substances. This includes a list of chemicals that are deemed safe and allowed to be released directly into the environment.
EPA Safer Choice with Direct Release Criteria
To qualify for direct release, an ingredient must meet specific criteria. The EPA’s Safer Choice with direct release requirements vary depending on the type of substance or chemical being released, the intended application and the potential environmental impact. To qualify for direct release, an ingredient must meet the following criteria:
- Biodegradability: The ingredient must be biodegradable, meaning it can be broken down into harmless substances by natural processes in the environment, such as bacteria or sunlight.
- Low toxicity: The ingredient must have low toxicity, meaning it is not harmful to humans or the environment at the concentrations at which it is released.
- Environmental persistence: The ingredient must not persist in the environment, meaning it does not accumulate in soil, water, or other environmental media and cause harm over time.
- Compatibility with environmental conditions: The ingredient must be compatible with the environmental conditions in which it will be released, such as pH, temperature, and salinity.
- Compatibility with other direct release ingredients: The ingredient must be compatible with other ingredients that are approved for direct release and used in the same application.
- Documentation of environmental impact: The ingredient must have documented environmental impact data, showing that it has been tested and found to be safe for release under specific conditions.
Once an ingredient meets these criteria, it can be evaluated to determine whether it qualifies for direct release under the specific regulations and guidelines. Additional testing or documentation may be required to ensure that the ingredient is safe for release.
If the ingredient meets all the requirements and is approved by the EPA, it can be used in Safer Choice labeled products intended for direct release applications. Commonly known direct release products include:
- Car washes
- Boat washes
- Power washes
- Graffiti removers
- Truck cleaners
- Window cleaners
Benefits of Using Direct Release-Approved Ingredients
Direct release approval offers benefits to both product manufacturers and consumers who use products that are released directly into the environment:
- Reduced Environmental Impact: Direct release approval requires ingredients to meet specific environmental standards, meaning that they are less likely to harm the environment when they are released. This can help protect ecosystems and wildlife, which can benefit the overall health of the environment.
- Safe for Human Health: Direct release approval also requires ingredients to meet specific health and safety standards, meaning that they are less likely to cause harm to human health. This can provide consumers with peace of mind that the products they use are safe for their families and pets.
- Regulatory Compliance: Direct release approval ensures that products comply with regulatory restrictions aimed at limiting the amount of harmful chemicals that can enter waterways. This reduces the risk of fines, penalties, or legal action against manufacturers or users of the product.
- Improved Product Performance: Some direct release approved ingredients can improve product performance. For example, certain biodegradable surfactants have been shown to provide highly effective cleaning power while being less harmful to the environment than traditional surfactants.
- Improved Brand Reputation: Direct release approval can enhance the brand reputation of manufacturers who use environmentally friendly and safe ingredients in their products. Consumers are increasingly conscious of the environmental impact of the products they use, and companies that prioritize environmental sustainability may be more attractive to environmentally conscious consumers.
Overall, direct release approval can enable formulators to provide consumers with environmentally friendly and safe products that meet regulatory requirements, are effective, and protect human health and the environment.
Direct Release-Approved Biosurfactants
Synthetic surfactants have been commonly used ingredients in direct release products. Biosurfactants have been praised as a top bio-based alternative to replace or limit the use of these harmful chemical surfactants.
A premiere biosurfactant choice is Locus Ingredients’ Amphi® M biosurfactant. Amphi M has been reviewed by EPA’s Safer Choice program and qualifies for use in Safer Choice-certified products.
Amphi M exhibits excellent emulsification, foaming, and surface tension reduction properties. This makes it ideal for use in a variety of applications such as detergents, dispersants and other industrial formulations.
Amphi M is listed on the CleanGredient list and because it meets all direct release criteria it can be safely discharged into the environment without causing harm. This is a significant advantage as it eliminates the need for costly and energy-intensive wastewater treatment processes, making it an attractive option for many consumer and industrial cleaning products. To help streamline commercialization in products, a library of ready-to-use formulations has been developed—including a car wash option.
Want to learn more about biosurfactants and how they propel formulation technology into a cleaner tomorrow? Let’s talk.