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Thursday, 22 October 2020

Has the time come to address questions of sustainability objectively & consistently?

Wednesday, 28 August 2013 | Posted by: Tony Mash, TMA Consulting Inc.

Every now and then, the blog receives pieces of news which support the view that, around the world, Sustainability is being taken very seriously. Over the last couple of months, there have been two such announcements, one political and one practical, which are highly significant and worth reviewing.

A critical link: sustainable development & technical innovation

The first is taken from a recent speech made by President Obama of the United States. Given the position of past US administrations that there is inadequate data to confirm the existence of Greenhouse Warming, the President’s initiative to demand from his administration and the US economy a focus on energy efficiency improvement and carbon pollution reduction is a significant change in policy and has much in common with the broader targets of Sustainable Development. Not surprisingly,...

...the language he used in his speech at Georgetown University drew heavily on the thinking that supports the concept of Sustainability.

In his speech, the President recognised that to address climate change, "we’ll need engineers to devise new technologies, and we’ll need businesses to make and sell those technologies", emphasising the critical link between sustainable development and technical innovation.

Tracking one's sustainability performance

In some countries of the world, the Coatings Industry already tracks its performance in terms of emissions, material usage, energy consumption, landfill and VOC content in a programme entitled Coatings Care®, and some very significant improvements have already been made and measured in the industry’s performance over the last 15 years. For further information, I recommend that you approach your local Coatings Trade Association who will be able to provide an update on the status of the Coatings Care® or similar programmes in your country.

Which brings me to my second piece of good news.

Life Cycle Inventory database for 260 chemicals

CEPE, the trade association covering the Paint, Coatings, Printing Inks and Artist Colours Industries across Europe, has announced the launch of its Life Cycle Inventory database for the 260 principal chemicals used by the paint and printing ink industries. CEPE has gathered for the first time in one database recommended materials datasets coming from commercial sources, together with new material datasets which were not adequately addressed by commercial databases. The data has been carefully reviewed prior to publication to ensure data consistency; an important discipline that avoids the danger of mixing information derived using differing assumptions which can lead to dubious results and conclusions.

CEPE has also published a methodology covering how the data was collected and indicating how it should be used consistently. There is even an easy-to-use software package available which can be used by companies that do not have access to the Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) programmes available in the marketplace (and it really is much easier to use than some commercial programmes!).

Simply but boldly put, this is the most valuable addition to a paint company’s manufacturing, product development and marketing armoury of tools that this blog has seen for a long time, and CEPE should be congratulated on the work it has completed.  For its recent press release, click on the following web address.

And it does not stop there. CEPE has committed to a process of continuous review of its data as supplier industries refine their own information on the materials they supply to the Coatings Industry. Working with separate industry sector groups, CEPE is also looking to broaden the scope of this work which currently covers ‘cradle to manufacturers’ gate’ only, and expand the analysis downstream to coatings use and eventual disposal.

With this kind of approach now available to the Coatings Industry, we are not far from the time when we can both objectively and consistently address key questions such as:

1) Is the carbon footprint of a coating irrelevant to its performance protecting materials such as metals and wood?

2) Are powder coatings more sustainable than solvent or water-borne paints? If so, in which applications?

3) Reducing titanium dioxide content may reduce the carbon footprint of a paint formulation, but will this change have a negative impact on other            environmental measures?

4) Was the industry right on sustainability grounds to switch from solvent-based to water-based coatings in Decorative applications?

I could go on.............and probably will!

Tony Mash

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