Staples launches new policy to drive toxic chemicals out of office supplies, electronics, textiles, and other products

Thursday, October 31, 2019
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New commitment targets PFAS, organohalogen flame retardants, phthalates, bisphenols, and other dangerous chemicals for safe substitution

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Following the lead of other major retailers and answering consumer demand for products free from toxic chemicals, Staples today launched a new Chemicals Policy targeting the reduction and substitution of toxic chemicals including per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). 

The Staples Priority Chemicals of Concern List includes dozens of toxic chemicals or classes of chemicals of high concern, including organohalogen flame retardants, ortho-phthalates, PFAS, bisphenols, parabens, formaldehyde releasers, and alkylphenol ethoxylates (APE’s), as well as the solvents methylene chloride, N-methyl pyrrolidone (NMP), and trichloroethylene (TCE). It also prioritizes chemicals that are endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive toxicants, neurotoxicants; and persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemicals including those on more than a dozen authoritative lists. 

The company states it will: “encourage our suppliers to work with their raw material suppliers to identify alternatives that are safer for our customers and the environment, using the most credible science and hazard evaluation tools available.”

This policy applies to all product brands owned by Staples and to national brand products sold through U.S. Staples Business Advantage, staples.com, and Quill. It prioritizes hazardous chemicals in important product categories where toxic chemicals are commonly found, including disposable food ware, furniture and other textiles, electronics, thermal receipt paper, cleaning products, and office supplies such as 3-ring binders, pens, highlighters, and markers. 

Mike Schade, Safer Chemicals Healthy Families’ Mind the Store Campaign Director, said: “Staples’ new chemicals policy signals a growing trend in the retail sector to stamp out classes of toxic chemicals, such as organohalogen flame retardants and PFAS, in food packaging, furniture, electronics, and other products. We congratulate the company on this important development. We urge Staples to take the next step by setting clear public benchmarks and timeframes for implementing its policy and to report on progress annually.” 

Mike Belliveau, Executive Director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center, said: "We greatly appreciate Staples’ leadership in phasing out whole classes of chemicals of high concern from its products. For example, by prohibiting the intentional use of phthalates in formulated products and office supplies, and many uses of PVC (vinyl) plastic, Staples is sending a strong market signal to its suppliers that only truly safe and sustainable materials and ingredients are acceptable to the company and its customers.”

Elizabeth Saunders, Massachusetts Director for Clean Water Action, said: "We're proud to see Staples, a Massachusetts company, take real leadership in protecting customers from toxic chemicals in products. Retailers play a key role as gatekeepers--they can control whether the products that reach our homes and workplaces are safe or toxic. Kudos to Staples for taking that responsibility seriously."

Staples is the latest retailer to announce a policy commitment to reduce toxic PFAS chemicals and other chemicals of high concern in consumer products over the past two months. This week, Lowe’s updated its chemical policy to reflect that it is banning the sale of indoor residential carpets and rugs containing PFAS as well as other hazardous chemicals in wall-to-wall carpet, paint, and fiberglass insulation as of January 2020. In September, The Home Depot announced it was phasing out the sale of all carpets and rugs containing PFAS and Ahold Delhaize launched a new safer chemicals policy restricting PFAS, phthalates, bisphenols and other chemicals in food packaging and other product categories.

Staples’ new policy comes less than three weeks before the release of the 2019 “Who’s Minding the Store?” retailer report card, which benchmarks retailers on their safer chemicals policies and implementation programs. Staples earned a D+ in the 2018 report card. 

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Safer Chemicals Healthy Families leads a nationwide coalition of organizations and businesses working to safeguard American families from toxic chemicals. The group’s Mind the Store campaign challenges big retailers to eliminate toxic chemicals and substitute safer alternatives.

Clean Water Action is a proud partner of Safer Chemicals Healthy Families. Since our founding during the campaign to pass the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972, Clean Water Action has worked to win strong health and environmental protections by bringing issue expertise, solution-oriented thinking and people power to the table. We will protect clean water in the face of attacks from a polluter friendly Administration. www.cleanwateraction.org

Elizabeth Saunders
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