PSU: Oregon should focus on greener chemicals

With better coordination between public agencies and companies, Oregon is poised to lead on alternatives to toxic chemicals.

With better coordination between public agencies and companies, Oregon is poised to lead on alternatives to toxic chemicals.

Researchers at Portland State University published a paper Wednesday highlighting Oregon's opportunities in the move toward more sustainable chemistry practices and calling for better coordination between organizations to help position the state as a leader.

The paper, "Leadership in Sustainable Chemicals Policy: Opportunities for Oregon," is aiming to attract the attention of private companies and public agencies and uncover areas ripe for collaboration.

"In Oregon, we have a strong culture around public and private partnerships," said Jennifer Allen, co-author of the paper and a fellow at PSU's Institute for Sustainable Solutions. "We have the opportunity to align around a set of priorities."

For example, Allen would like to see state agencies that monitor and permit chemicals open up better lines of communications between each other. She'd like incentives put in place for businesses to develop green alternatives to toxic materials. And she'd like to see a support system for small businesses looking to do the right thing by the environment and their customers.

"To me that's a really important opportunity. We're a small business state if you look at the numbers," Allen said.

The PSU paper follows an effort by the Oregon Environmental Council to establish a green chemistry cluster support group that would have been funded by the Oregon Innovation Council. That effort didn't get the green light from the council, but the organization's research highlighted Oregon's potential and early leadership in the green chemistry industry.

The PSU paper offers a policy framework to support the cluster and recommends that the state adopts a comprehensive toxic reduction strategy.

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