Home Appliance Industry: Commitment to Climate Action & Sustainability Leadership
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Contact: Jill Notini
Home Appliance Industry: Commitment to Climate Action & Sustainability Leadership
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nov. 1, 2021)
The home appliance industry and everyone with an interest in climate policy will be watching the events in Glasgow, Scotland, closely as approximately 30,000 delegates meet for the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP26. The conference is a major event every year, but this year’s has special significance, as it marks five years since the signing of the Paris agreement. Just two years from now, under the agreement, the countries who signed will have to report on actions they have taken and progress they have made to mitigate climate change. COP26 will bring intense discussions about climate policy, even among those not directly participating, including how products like home appliances affect the environment. With the world’s eyes on climate policy, this is the time to reiterate the industry’s history of progress toward more sustainable products and our ongoing commitment to the environment.
In the weeks leading up to COP26, a common sentiment among many observers and participants was that they are hungry for real action, rather than just talk, to show the world is on the right track in addressing climate change. With climate policy ideas under such intense scrutiny, we are fortunate to be an industry that can demonstrate measurable progress in areas like improved efficiency, reduced use of HFCs and lower water use. Just as significant, in this polarized time, is our long record of working with energy efficiency advocates to achieve these goals. We expect this to continue as we expand our focus to address single-use plastic packaging waste.
Home appliances are regarded around the world as more than just modern-day conveniences. Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, as homes became a refuge for billions around the world, we received an undeniable reminder of the importance appliances play in creating healthy, safe and comforting homes for billions of people around the world. As the industry builds on the accomplishments revisited here, we look forward to a future where further innovation and collaboration produce results that are felt in every home.
Impact & Progress
AHAM, the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, is the voice of the home appliance industry, providing its members throughout the United States and in Canada with leadership, advocacy and a forum for action. Our members provide safe, innovative, sustainable and efficient products that enhance consumers’ lives.
To document our industry's impact, AHAM commissioned the Home Appliance Industry Economic Impact Study, which measures the economic contributions of home appliance manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers to the economies of the United States and Canada. In all, the industry drives about $198.14 billion USD in economic output throughout the U.S. economy and $5.8 billion CAD in output across Canada.
AHAM is proud of the home appliance industry’s significant progress in a number of key sustainability initiatives: driving energy efficiency, transitioning to low GWP refrigerants, addressing single-use plastics, reducing facilities’ GHG emissions, diverting waste from landfills and dealing with food waste.
The most significant environmental impact of home appliances, by far, is due to the energy consumed during their useful life. Recognizing this, AHAM and its members were significant contributors to establishing the federal energy efficiency regulatory program for home appliances and its improvement over time.
The appliance industry’s most significant environmental advancements are seen in the decades of efficiency gains by home appliances. Energy efficiency improvement in home appliances is not only a pillar of product design for home appliance manufacturers, but it is the industry’s greatest environmental success story. New appliances often represent the most effective choice a consumer can make to reduce home energy use and costs. In conjunction with the Department of Energy (DOE) Appliance and Equipment Standards Program, which AHAM supports, manufacturers continue to design products with improved energy and water efficiency and offer the technological advances that meet consumer desires.
• A modern refrigerator uses half the energy it did three decades ago and uses less energy than a 60‐watt incandescent light bulb, while offering consumers significantly greater convenience features.
• Clothes washers of average efficiency can save a household more than 5,000 gallons of water and more than $150 in annual utility costs compared to a 10-year-old washer.
• New clothes washers can hold 40 percent more laundry than they did 20 years ago. And, they are close to 90% more energy efficient.
AHAM members are also very active partners in the U.S. EPA’s ENERGY STAR program. According to EPA’s Annual ENERGY STAR Penetration Report, ENERGY STAR home appliances average approximately 60% penetration of their respective markets based on shipments. This is higher when compared to all ENERGY STAR products, which averages approximately 48 percent based on shipments.
Of note, in the 2020 report, EPA declared 100 percent of dishwasher shipment were ENERGY STAR certified and more than 50 percent of the clothes washers, dehumidifiers, room air conditioners, and refrigerator freezers shipped in 2020 earned the ENERGY STAR designation.
Single-Use Plastic Packaging
Appliance packaging consists mostly of materials that are easily recyclable, such as corrugated fiberboard, boxboard and paper laminates. For appliances, these non-plastic recyclable materials make up almost all of the packaging by weight (86-92 percent).
AHAM has developed a set of principles to articulate and support the industry’s position when it works with legislators and regulators who are considering single-use plastic packaging restrictions in the United States. AHAM is proactively supporting a novel ballot initiative in California that offers an effective solution to the problem of single-use plastics in packaging. If the California voters approve the proposal, the resulting program imposes a fee on single-use plastic packaging and foodware, the proceeds of which are devoted to recycling infrastructure and environmental restoration. The initiative also establishes a 2030 deadline for all single-use plastic packaging and single-use foodware to be recyclable, reusable or compostable.
For 30 years, the home appliance industry has been continuously investing in significant technological innovation to allow for the use of increasingly environmentally friendly refrigerants and blowing agents for insulating foam. The industry transitioned in the 1990s away from chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which were ozone-depleting substances (ODS) and had a very high global warming potential (GWP), to hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which had lower global warming effects. In 2000, the industry then transitioned from HCFCs to hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), which had no harmful ozone layer effects. Currently, the industry is almost fully transitioned to new alternatives with very low global warming potential.
AHAM members have led efforts to move to new refrigerant and refrigerant foam substitutes that offer reduced global warming impacts. In particular, early on an AHAM member petitioned the U.S. EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) to allow the use of isobutane. EPA allowed the use of isobutane in refrigerators beginning in December 2011, benefiting all manufacturers looking to offer consumers products with alternative refrigerants but it took an additional few years for the safety standard to be updated to allow its usage broadly. AHAM and its members have continued to work with EPA to expand the use of low-global warming potential substances available for use in household refrigerators, freezers, room and portable air conditioners, and dehumidifiers. AHAM supported the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020, which authorizes EPA to phase down the use of HFCs. In 2021, AHAM petitioned EPA to require the use of refrigerants with a GWP of 750 or less for most room air conditioners, portable air conditioners and dehumidifiers in the coming years.
To support Canada’s efforts in phasing down the use of HFCs, Environment and Climate Change Canada amended the Ozone-depleting Substances and Halocarbon Alternatives Regulations. The amendments essentially ban the use of HFCs in home refrigeration products. In particular, the regulation will prohibit the use of HFC gases with a GWP of greater than 150, including imports. HFC gases with a GWP greater than 150 were prohibited as an insulation foam-blowing agent as of January 1, 2021, and refrigerants with a GWP greater than 150 will be prohibited as of January 1, 2025.
GHG Emissions from Facilities
A number of AHAM members have goals to reduce GHG emissions from their facilities by between 50-70 percent or become carbon net-zero by 2030.
A sample of some of the goals developed by AHAM members as of 2019:
Reduce GHG emissions from all facilities (scope I and II) by 50 percent by 2030 using a 2016 baseline.
Reduce carbon footprint (GHG emissions) by 20 percent using a 2018 baseline
Reduce GHG emissions by 70 percent by 2020 using a 2008 baseline
Increase sourcing of renewable energy across all facilities by 2020
Becoming carbon neutral in production (scope I and II) by 2025 with a specific focus on scope II GHG emission with a 2019 baseline
Improving facilities energy efficiency by transitioning to sourcing from renewable / green energy sources by 2030
Goal to become carbon net-zero by 2030 and reduce overall carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030 using a 2017 baseline
AHAM member companies have made measurable progress on these goals. AHAM will assess the progress in its next Sustainability Report. The first AHAM Sustainability Report can be found online.
Waste diversion from landfills is also a sustainability initiative for AHAM members, and a number of member companies have made commitments to reduce their waste to landfill and increase their recycling rates by 2030. These companies showed an average annual increase of 0.5 percent of materials diverted from landfill, with a 1.5 percent increase in 2019 in comparison to a 2016 baseline. The trend for AHAM members is moving in the right direction, with companies committing to long-term goals.
Examples of goals set by AHAM members:
Achieve non-hazardous waste reduction through the reuse of recyclable materials instead of disposing of them, with a goal of 30 percent reduction
Establish a zero waste to landfill goal for all manufacturing facilities globally by 2022
Set a target of 95 percent waste diversion across all manufacturing and R&D facilities
Set target of 99 percent waste reduction and 97 percent waste to energy conversion
Company set target to achieve a recycling rate of recyclable materials of 95 percent across all facilities by 2030
Food Waste and Methane Gas
According the U.S. EPA estimates that 63.1 million tons of food waste was generated in the commercial, institutional, and residential sectors in 2018, which is 21.6 percent of total municipal solid waste.
In today’s world, food waste disposers can be considered an environmental appliance—much like ENERGY STAR-rated refrigerators and laundry machines. Disposers are sold in more than 100 countries and based on decades of research and widespread use, it is known that disposers play an essential role in diverting food waste from collection trucks, landfills, and incinerators.
Now more than ever, global warming, land, and air pollution directly affect the quality of our lives. Fortunately, while there's no single "silver bullet" for managing and getting rid of the world's waste, even the simple things we do can have an important impact on the environment—like properly storing food in a refrigerator to prevent spoilage or using a food waste disposer to help keep food waste out of landfills.
The residential sector, which includes single- and multi-family dwellings, was estimated to generate 25 million tons of wasted food. The majority (66%) of the residential sector’s wasted food was landfilled; 15% was combusted, and 15% was sent to sewer/wastewater treatment. Only 3% was composted.
Landfills are not only unsightly; they also present numerous environmental issues, such as diesel fuel emissions from trucks transporting food waste to landfills, methane produced as a byproduct of decomposition of food waste, and finally, the contribution of leachate, an acidic liquid residue that can seep into and contaminate ground water.
Food waste is already comprised mostly of water, so grinding it in a food waste disposer and sending it down the drain makes sense as a practical and environmentally responsible way of contributing to a holistic waste management strategy.
In addition to keeping food scraps out of landfills, in some cases, a capable wastewater treatment facility can capture methane, the biogas created while treating wastewater, and use it to generate renewable energy to power the plant, itself. Many modern facilities already do this, and the number is growing. Biosolids that result from the treatment process can be converted and sold as fertilizer and soil conditioner, recycling food nutrients back to the soil.
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The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) is the trade association representing manufacturers of major, portable and floor care home appliances and suppliers to the industry. AHAM is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and maintains an office in Ottawa. AHAM is the single voice providing the home appliance industry and its customers leadership, advocacy and a forum for action — developing and implementing credible solutions for public policy, standards and business decisions. You can visit AHAM’s web site at http://www.aham.org or follow us on Twitter @AHAM_Voice and @AHAM_Policy.
Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers