Attack, don’t sit on defence!
By David Reed, UT EditorPrague-While the flexible polyurethane foam industry has plenty of on-going issues to keep its technical committee busy, the unit’s new head is keen for it to take a new stance.”I want to go on the attack,” said Ken Hillier, head of British Vita plc’s technical department, in his first presentation to a Europur general assembly as leader of its technical committee.”Why don’t we only use chemicals from renewable sources?” he asked, provocatively, and “why don’t we look at making polyurethanes without using isocyanates?” he asked the 170 or so delegates at the 9-10 June general assembly event, “we last looked at this prospect in the 1980s and that’s 25years ago! And why can’t we eliminate flame retardants, why not use nanotechnology?” he continued.Not that Hillier was expecting any of these things to happen in the near future, “but it would move the agenda along,” he said, speaking in a subsequent interview.The technical committee already has a full programme of work, he admitted, pointing out that this includes:• Recycling and recovery;• CertiPUR, Europur’s product quality assurance scheme;• The existing chemicals regulation and its priority lists, where Europur is working with EFRA (the European Flame Retardants Association); and• REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals), the European Union’s new regulation to control chemicals, is a permanent feature on the agenda.The technical committee is involved in several other activities, Hillier continued, citing flame retardants, the safety of block-cutting machines, and HAZOP, procedures for evaluating the hazardous potential of the foam industry’s operations.However, several of Europur’s technical committee items are now nearing completion, said Hillier, with its work on VOCs and odour issues largely finalised, with backup from the CertiPUR scheme. And the extractables work is now all complete, and just needs writing up, he told the Europur delegates.One change has already happened, Hillier continued, with the emanations project now starting to operate under the Product Stewardship name, led by David King of Recticel UK Ltd. This approach, adopted from the chemical industry, aims to encourage the flexible foams industry to take responsibility for the health, safety and environmental aspects of its products throughout their lifecycle, from manufacture through to ultimate disposal.For this to happen, the committee needs new terms of reference, Hillier continued, and will involve links with ISOPA (the European Isocyanate and polyols producers assocation) on product stewardship as well as links with up- and downstream customers, he concluded.”