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Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Cradle to Gate or Cradle to Grave: that is the question!

Sunday, 10 June 2012 | Posted by: Tony Mash, TMA Consulting Inc.

As Coatings progress along the road to Sustainable Development, should the industry be focusing R&D effort on innovation from Cradle to Gate or Cradle to Grave?

At the CEPE conference last week in Seville, the federation’s Sustainability Charter was approved and is now available on the public area of the CEPE web site. It is well worth reading as it not only provides a clear description of the European Coatings Industry commitment to Sustainability but it also promotes the concept of Life Cycle Thinking.

It is natural for Coatings Manufacturers to look hard at their own manufacturing processes and their choices of raw materials in order to develop more sustainable products and services. While this can lead to product or process innovation, Life Cycle Thinking reminds us that improving products from Cradle to Factory gate is not the whole story. We need to consider what is happening downstream of the Coatings Industry where we may well find ‘hotspots’ that a coating reformulation can help eradicate. We may also find some best practice that we should consider emulating.

The DIY retailer, B&Q, in a recent presentation encouraged the Coatings Industry to focus its innovation and development processes on:

-    Material choice

-    Lifetime extension

-    Re-manufacture

-    Carbon saving for the customer

-    Material saving for the customer

B&Q is seeking not only first application product improvements but also long term sustainable benefits for the consumer and seeks to encourage recycling and recovery.

IKEA has estimated that, across its global product range, nearly 40% of the sources of carbon dioxide are derived beyond its factory gate. The company’s published goals for 2015 include the following product-related targets:

 •             90 percent of our sales value shall come from home furnishing products classified

as "more sustainable” in the IKEA Sustainability Product Score Card.

•             All materials for home furnishing products shall be renewable, recyclable or recycled.

•             Our energy-consuming products shall on average be 50 percent more efficient than what were available on the market in 2008.

IKEA seeks to find ways in which the products it sells can be recycled either as finished articles or in parts. To its credit, IKEA has partnered with a number of charity organisations who will try to give old furniture a new life with local families in need of some support. In case any item is not reusable, furniture is disassembled and the parts recycled with the lowest environmental impact.

But the opportunities do not stop with recycling.  The latest trend from the world of design is ‘up-cycling’. This is a process by which objects are given a new lease of life by upgrading them often into higher value roles.  Coatings have a very significant role to play in up-cycling coated products.

As is often the case, Coatings are key to enhancing the Sustainability of the objects and materials that they decorate or protect. If our downstream customers are seeking to enhance benefits to the final consumer by working on options for retrieval, recycling, up-cycling and waste management, companies in the Coatings Industry need to decide how best they can contribute to these downstream Sustainable Development processes.

 Any ideas on how this can be achieved?


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