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Sunday, 27 September 2020

The ACS conference in Atlanta revealed technical advances that can contribute to Sustainable Development, but hurdles remain when it comes to adoption and measurement

Thursday, 1 May 2014 | Posted by: Tony Mash, TMA Consulting Inc.

The American Coatings Show (ACS) was a great success in terms of organisation and enjoyed a record number of attendees. Regrettably, the exhibition element of the show rather downplayed Sustainability. Despite enthusiastic promotion of waste paint recycling, I noted that even those companies displaying ingredients with improved environmental footprints elected to promote potential functionality enhancements and said very little about upstream sustainability credentials; a significant contrast to the European exhibition in Nuremburg a year ago. However, the technical conference that accompanied the exhibition was a very different matter.

In early April, I attended the American Coatings Show which proved to be a great success in terms of organisation and a record number of attendees. The event comprised an exhibition and a three day technical conference. As I toured the exhibition, I became concerned that the Coatings Industry and those sectors that supply it were losing interest in Sustainability. For, apart from enthusiastic promotion of waste paint recycling by the American Coatings Association (ACA) through its PaintCare® organisation and companies like GDB International, I was struck by the lack of reference to Sustainable Development. Even those companies displaying ingredients with improved environmental footprints elected to promote potential enhancements to the functionality of coatings and said very little about upstream sustainability credentials; a significant contrast to the European exhibition in Nuremburg a year ago.

The technical conference that accompanied the exhibition was, however, a very different matter and I was very encouraged by what I learned. Some sessions were so well subscribed that there were not enough seats in the meeting rooms to accommodate everyone. This was particularly the case for lectures in which materials manufactured from bio-renewable materials were discussed. On several occasions, an idea or a discovery was reviewed that represented a significant innovative step forward, worthy of further investigation and development. 

It was impossible to attend all the presentations, but the ones that stood out for me were papers on:

  •  An additive for use with indoor architectural paint that removes formaldehyde from interior air. (Dow Chemical and Valspar)
  •  Recycling tire rubber into a consistent black elastomeric pigment with full hide and a unique feel and lustre (Sun Chemical)
  •  Switching surfactant properties on and off by sparging alternatively with carbon dioxide and air (Queens University, Canada)
  •  A combination of calcium and magnesium salts that can successfully replace zinc phosphate in anti-corrosive pigments. (Heubach)
  •  A castor oil based polyol emulsion that uses water as the solvent thereby providing a zero VOC option (Nuplex)
  •  Polyester resins with Improved properties manufactured from renewable sources (CorbionPurac) 
  •  New thermosetting and thermoplastic latex polymers that act as a solvent and coalesce systems for 2K and 1K coatings. (Dow Chemical) 
  •  Grafting an acrylic polymer onto an alkyd resin, to alter its morphology and avoid the need for both solvent and surfactant to achieve alkyd dispersion.   (Arkema)

There were a significant number of papers at the conference that addressed, in some form or another, potential routes to as close to zero-VOC as possible without losing coatings functionality. However, I was stunned to learn that there is no globally accepted single definition for what constitutes a VOC! While countries have or are planning to legislate using different threshold levels of VOC acceptability, it turns out that what constitutes a VOC is also defined differently in Europe (ISO 16000) and in the USA (ASTM D 6886-12). I have to ask what hope do we have to get alignment in thinking worldwide across the many aspects of Sustainability if the Coatings Industry cannot agree a single definition of a VOC across the Atlantic Ocean?

Vincentz Network GmbH had undertaken a survey of attendees in advance of the ACS show and recorded that nearly 70% of those attendees who completed the survey sought a consistent industry-agreed methodology for measuring Sustainability; a message that was aired in this blog in November 2012. A close working relationship is being steadily built between the North American and European Coatings Industries through their respective trade associations. This includes representation from both sides of the Atlantic on the European Union’s PEFCR paint pilot project. Hopefully, their combined influence will be enough to press legislators and standards organisations in each region of the world to align their definitions. The absence of a consistent global approach to defining something as critical as VOC is one of those hurdles that is going to slow down the process of building a sustainable coatings industry worldwide serving one global environment?

Comments appreciated as always.

Tony Mash

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