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Monday, 28 September 2020

Are we now seeing a battle between REACH and Carbon Footprints to dominate technology?

Thursday, 2 June 2011 | Posted by: Peter A. Rieck, Marcmoor Ltd.

There is a very real danger that technology is becoming a slave to regulation.   The regulator may become the chemist of the future, distorting Research and Development away from our real needs and the values and virtues of nano-technology, water-based, high solids or other technologies might not be the focus of discussion and research much longer.

It is possible that we are now entering an era where regulation dictates the direction of R&D, potentially stifling innovation.   We have already seen the arrival of the 150 page MSDS leaflet, some even claim figures higher than that, can you beat that?   We are witnessing the reduced availability of chemicals materials and additives from the chemists’ arsenal upon which they draw to overcome the challenges of the future.   We are seeing our innovative playing field becoming increasingly confined by the letter of the law.

Each new regulation is by its very nature confined to a specific topic and narrow in its application.   Take for example Carbon Foot Printing.   The Carbon Foot Print of a product and its effect on up and down stream activities has become the latest measure of the Holy Grail - "sustainability”.   And yet it only tackles one narrow aspect of the benefit that coatings technology can bring to the customer, the community and the planet.  

The assessment of the Carbon Foot Print impact of a product has become so fashionable that a rash of software products have sprung up, a veritable industry, government sponsored and aimed at telling us how much valuable natural resources (carbon) we are consuming.   This in turn will sponsor a new "carbon footprint factor” which the regulators and the marketing teams alike will seize on to demonstrate either how much tax we should pay or conversely how much good we are doing the environment.  Soon we will see a race between companies R&D departments to achieve a "zero carbon foot print” and where does that leave "sustainability”?  

We have seen it happen with renewable energy, in the end government actually paid people to adopt renewable energy, spawning serried ranks of wind turbines marching across the landscape as though they were the answer to all our prayers to the exclusion of many other alternatives.   

A similar fate could happen to many of our technologies; water-based and powder coating are known to be energy (carbon?) hungry, nano-technology is still not clear of the regulator and ultra violet curing has its own issues, it is going to be interesting to see which will win out in this new order of regulation.   Perhaps we should rely on mankind’s ingenuity and see an entirely new set of technologies emerge from the battlefield of regulation that will product a greater benefit to us all than just having the smallest carbon footprint.   Maybe we will see a lead from the important IPPIC meeting this month.

It is time you scientists and chemists joined in the debate and influenced the regulators rather than the other way around.   What is it to be, a narrow cramped and over regulated future for technology or a bright new dawn for the next exiting generation of innovation and technology?

Peter Rieck,

Peter Rieck Consulting

Marcmoor Limited

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