Environment Group talks international standards

The Environment Technical Interest Group was founded in 1961, and is one of the largest technical interest groups in the Society, with over 700 Members worldwide. The Group has particular interests in:

  • Legislation and standardisation
  • Air, land and water pollution measurement and control
  • Environmental impact assessment and management
  • Effects of hazardous materials on the environment
  • 'Clean', low-carbon technology
  • Waste and water management
  • The interaction between industry and the community
  • Sustainability issues.

The environment is central to every activity of the chemical and allied industries, as well as most other major technology sectors. The Group endeavours to enhance all aspects of professional awareness on environmental matters. It aims to provide a forum for discussion and sharing of information on environmental issues relevant to the chemical and allied industries, public authorities, academia and other interested parties. Through a dedicated and hard-working committee, events organised include one-day and multi-day national and international conferences (often held jointly with other like-minded organisations, particularly the Royal Society of Chemistry's Water Chemistry Forum) to discuss and disseminate the latest developments in all environmental matters.

It is perhaps less well known that the Environment Group committee also represents SCI on several committees of the British Standards Institution (BSI), European Union and International Standards Organisations (ISO and CEN), as well as on specialist working parties concerned with environmental issues. For over 20 years SCI has covered expenses incurred by this representation, which would not otherwise be met by grant-in-aid from the UK government. With the help of this support, committee members have been able to influence the development of a wide range of standards, both by acting as principal authors of documents and by chairing committees at various levels throughout the standards organisations involved.

One of the benefits to SCI of standards work, is to provide an open, transparent, public fulfilment of the SCI's charitable objectives; facilitating the application of science at the highest level and promoting the SCI's goals and objectives. Furthermore, this work helps maintain an extensive international network of active scientists, which has the added advantage of identifying suitable speakers for the many events run by the Environment Group on behalf of SCI.

The Environment Group committee members contribute their time freely to standards activity, which can, in some cases, total many days a year. Employers bear some of the costs involved by allowing members to absent themselves from their normal duties, and self-employed members arguably make an even greater sacrifice because their fundamental ability to earn a living is compromised by spending time on standards work.

Many of those involved in standards work reduce their expenditure by such means as philanthropic contribution of company expenses, personal donation of travel costs, or absenting themselves from some meetings in the interest of economy and dealing with the activity as much as possible by correspondence. In some cases, the costs of oversees meetings are fully deferred against government grants, but more often than not a contribution is requested from SCI to make up the difference. Members invariably stay in budget hotels on such trips and set themselves aside from other delegates as a result.

Principal areas of activity covered by the Environment Group are standards relating to the assessment, maintenance and management of soil and water quality. Other important areas are the characterisation and management of all aspects of sewage sludge treatment and recycling in order to maintain public health and minimise environmental impact, and the development and maintenance of environmental policy within CEN and its application in the development of future standards.

Standards work is also supported by the committee's involvement in the Standing Committee of Analysts (SCA) at a strategic level. It is the voluntary work of the SCA on fundamental method development, which allows the UK to contribute strongly through BSI to the development of international standards by donating the research output freely at a global level.

If you would be interested in getting involved with the Environment Group and the work it does, then please contact us by emailing communications@soci.org

Chairman, SCI Environment Group

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