Test Results Published on Security Seals

January 09, 2004

Electronic seal technology is maturing and may be applied to container security, according to a study released by the Cargo Handling Cooperative Program (CHCP). Electronic seals, or e-seals, have been proposed as a way to improve security and track cargo movements worldwide. However, e-seals would likely have to be standardized in order to be widely used, and the study did not find any one type suitable for use as a standard.

The CHCP, a partnership between the Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration and private industry, compared five electronic security seals proposed for use on intermodal freight containers. The study found that the technology will continue to improve, and that it is critical to allow for growth in performance in application to the industry.

“There's an urgent need for effective technology in this area,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta. “By testing e-seals in the laboratory, at terminal gates, on the road, and in a simulated rail environment, we are making significant steps toward ensuring the safety of cargo containers throughout the nation.”

The seals tested were All Seal by All Set Tracking, DataSeal by Hi-G-Tek, eSeal by eLogicity, MacSema + Navalink by CGM, and SmartSeal by Savi.

The e-seals have container information and can show if the seal has been subjected to tampering. The tested seals can be "read" by direct contact or on a specific radio frequency, which varies with the type of seal. For a system using e-seals to be efficient, seals would likely have to be "read" by one kind of reader, using one standard radio frequency. "For e-seals to be useful, there will have to be an accepted international standard," said Maritime Administrator Captain William G. Schubert. "Any real-life solution must also provide real improvements in security and efficiency without unduly burdening operators. These results show that the intermodal freight community needs to take into consideration design and operations issues before any single e-seal solution can be standardized."

The work of the cooperative was supported by the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center of San Diego, California, and the Center for Commercial Deployment of Transportation Technologies (CCDoTT) at the California State University, Long Beach. The report is available online at http://www.marad.dot.gov.

New Innovative Partnership with Staples, Electronics Manufacturers to Take Back E-waste from Customers

At the annual International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Jan. 8-11, 2004 in Las Vegas, Nevada, EPA is announcing a new partnership with Staples and the Product Stewardship Institute to test a pilot "take-back program" as a new approach for recycling used electronics. The new partnership is part of EPA's "Plug-In To eCycling" campaign that promotes electronics recycling by working with manufacturers and retailers, including AT&T Wireless, Best Buy, Dell, Envirocycle, Inc., Intel, JVC, Lexmark, Nxtcycle, Panasonic, Recycle America Alliance (a wholly owned subsidiary of Waste Management, Inc.), Sharp, Sony, and Staples, to increase public awareness and sponsor collection events.

"EPA is looking to other manufacturers and retailers to follow the partnership lead in providing Americans more convenient access to safe recycling of their old electronics," said Barry Breen, EPA's Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for Solid Waste and Emergency Response, who officially unveiled the new partnership.

As part of the CES trade show, EPA will hold an Environmental Recognition Luncheon Jan. 10 to announce the new pilot, commend its partners and recognize Philips Consumer Electronics as the winner of the Innovations Award for Environmental Design for their 30" LCD FlatTV. The special award was created by the Consumers Electronics Association to recognize companies for integrating environmentally-friendly characteristics—efficient and clean energy use, innovative manufacturing processes, durability and end-of-life resource conservation—into their products. Philips' 30" LCD FlatTV features at least 40 percent less energy consumption and weighs significantly less than comparable products.

The Consumers Electronic Association unites more than 1,000 companies within the U.S. consumer technology industry. The Product Stewardship Institute, operating out of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, assists state and local governments to work with industry to reduce the health and environmental impacts from consumer products. CES is expected to draw over 110,000 attendees and 2,300 exhibitors from more than 110 countries.

Electronics are a fast growing portion of America's trash – with 250 million computers destined to become obsolete by 2005. Electronics can present an environmental hazard if they are disposed of improperly, because they contain mercury, cadmium, lead, brominated flame retardants and other toxics. With an average of four pounds of lead in many older TV picture tubes and computer monitors, along with other potentially hazardous materials, electronic products call for special handling at the end of their lives.

Under the partnership with Staples and the Product Stewardship Institute to be announced by EPA on Jan. 10, electronics manufacturers Apple, Brother, Dell, Epson, Intel, Lexmark, Panasonic, Sharp, and Sony will pay for the recycling of their name brand products taken back to Staples. A recycling company called Envirocycle will ensure safe recycling of these products. EPA expects to partner with manufacturers and retailers to conduct additional pilot projects in the Pacific Northwest and Minnesota in the coming year. The states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine and New Hampshire will undertake the first pilot project in 26 retail stores.

Plug-In To eCycling is an outgrowth of EPA's Resource Conservation Challenge (RCC) initiative, which identifies and uses innovative, flexible, and protective ways to conserve natural resources and energy. Introduced in 2003, the RCC establishes partnerships and alliances with industry, states and environmental groups, and provides training, tools and technological assistance for businesses governments and citizen groups.

For more information on the Plug-In To eCycling program, go to http://www.plugintoecycling.org. For more information on the CES, go to http://www.cesweb.org; and on the RCC, go to http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/osw/conserve/index.htm.

Americans Urged to Test for Radon

January is Radon Action Month – an opportune time for Americans to test for radon in their homes. Because families are spending more time indoors during the winter months, January is a good time to test for this radioactive, invisible, odorless gas. Exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. EPA estimates that approximately 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year are radon-related. Radon comes from the decay of naturally occurring uranium in the earth's soil and can accumulate indoors to dangerous levels. Simple, inexpensive do-it-yourself radon test kits are available. EPA recommends that houses with radon levels of 4 picocuries or more of radon should be fixed to prevent accumulation of the gas indoors. EPA is working with state and local partners to educate the public about the dangers of radon. To learn more about how to receive a discounted radon home test kit or for more information about radon, and how to contact your state radon office, go to http://www.epa.gov/radon, or call 1-800-SOS-Radon.

New Web Portal Launched for Environmental Technology Opportunities

To promote governmental and private programs that provide incentives for developing cost-effective environmental technologies (Energy Star, Green Chemistry, Design for Living), EPA recently launched the Environmental Technology Opportunities Portal (ETOP). The ETOP network has a single portal page and associated tools, including central database searches, notifications of new funding opportunities and updates from the ETOP list serve. For example, under the Green Engineering program, the UltraLight Steel Auto Body-Advanced Vehicle Concept was developed by a group of 33 international steelmakers. The use of lightweight steel in future vehicles will reduce pollutant emissions, improve gas mileage and will cost no more to build than traditionally engineered vehicles. For more information about the portal, go to http://www.epa.gov/etop.

New Guidance on Supplemental Environment Projects Issued by OECA

To encourage violators to undertake projects that will benefit the environment and public health, EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) has released new guidance on the Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEP) Policy.

A SEP is an environmentally beneficial project that a violator voluntarily agrees to perform as part of an enforcement settlement. SEPs are projects or activities that go beyond what is required of a violator to return to compliance with environmental requirements and which the defendant/respondent is not otherwise legally required to perform. By agreeing to an SEP, violators bring direct benefit to the communities where violations occurred.

OECA anticipates that this guidance will encourage the regulated community to propose environmentally beneficial projects that would otherwise not be implemented due to the long-term, speculative nature of the returns. The three guidance documents are: Guidance for Determining Whether a Project is Profitable, When to Accept Profitable Projects as Supplemental Environmental Projects, and How to Value Such Projects (provides a way to calculate if the environmental or public health benefits of a project are significant enough to outweigh profits that the violator might receive);
Guidance Concerning the Use of Third Parties in the Performance of Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) and the Aggregation of SEP Funds (answers frequently asked questions by enforcement personnel on the use of third parties in the development and/or implementation of a SEP and on the aggregation of SEPs); and Recommended Ideas for Supplemental Environmental Projects (examples of projects that offer great potential for significant and measurable environmental and/or public health benefits to the environment and the community affected by the violation). The full documents can be found at: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/civil/programs/seps/index.html.