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What is regrettable substitution and how do you set criteria for alternatives? The alternative you choose should have equivalent or better function than the substance you want to substitute, have lower risk but also be accessible, energy-efficient and financially sound.
Below is a compilation of various resources that can be used to compare and assess the chemical risk of alternatives.
OECD Alternative Assessments & Substitution Toolbox: Compiles most frameworks and guides, the toolbox itself is searchable based on various criteria and needs.
More and more automated tools are available aiming to simplify risk assessments, but in some cases, you still need to be familiar with finding toxicological data yourself.
Hopefully you now have a list of fewer options and that have no known unwanted properties which you decided to exclude. It is time for verification of function, technology and economy. Other aspects that can play a role are the life cycle perspective, circular economy, waste management, financial availability and more.
There is an infinite variety of functions and technical specifications. Those who work in your particular industry are the ones with the greatest knowledge. When it comes to verification of function, it is important that you involve the right people during the right steps.
|Examples of questions when verifying function|
|Can function requirements be downgraded to broaden the possibilities for safer alternatives?|
|What are the most important primary and secondary characteristics?|
|Are there any legal requirements for function, e.g. flame protection?|
|What is the customer's requirement for technical specification?|
|Can the substitute be communicated to customers as a positive change?|
|What are the requirements for longevity and quality?|
Tips! Feel free to contact the Swedish Centre for Chemical Substitution for help in finding a laboratory or testbed that can verify alternatives. We may also recommend projects or initiate projects to develop new alternatives.
A substitute must be available on the market and be economically feasible. The economic benefits of spending short term money on substitution and thus getting a higher market price is that you can in the long run; reduce costs for handling and waste of hazardous chemicals, get more efficient and cheaper production processes, increase the quality and attractiveness of the product on the market.
In a Nielsen Global Survey survey, 55% of consumers in over 60 countries, especially younger consumers, responded that they are willing to pay more for products and services from companies that work with sustainable practices.
Kemi in Kredslöb was a Danish organization that worked to promote products with less unwanted chemicals. They provided support to SMEs for financial calculations of substitutes.
|Alternative Technology||Energy consumption||Research and development|
|Purchasing equipment||Labor||Training staff|
There are additional aspects that may be relevant when evaluating alternatives.
|Environment||Supply Chain||Customer acceptance|
|Emissions||Secured delivery||Consumer habits|
|Energy||Changed work process||Traditions|
|Transport||Quality control||Local culture|
|CO2 per ton used substance||Training staff||Communication of successful substitution|
|Emissions during production||Internal audits||Sustainable branding|
|Rare earth metals|
The challenge of substitution is not to choose an alternative that is equally hazardous or worse than the topic you are replacing. The substitute should not have insufficient function which can lead to short shelf life or be unreliable. One way of working can be to do an initial screening of the alternatives, to exclude alternatives which are undesirable from a toxicological point of view, and proceed with technical and economic verification
An initial screening should exclude all alternatives that do not meet the internal criteria you defined in Step 3 for unwanted alternatives. If you have found an alternative in a positive list, match the criteria behind the list to your own to assure your standard. If the list does not take into account hormone-disrupting substances, but you see it as a high priority within your organization, then further research is needed.
Tips! Contact us if you need guidance on how to proceed with verifying alternatives! Also feel free to contact us when you have made a successful substitution. We want to communicate your story as inspiration for other companies.