The Environmental Issue

By Tim Wright | May 14, 2007

These days the environment is dominating our social, political and cultural landscape. Global warming and sustainability are the current topics of debate making headlines on a daily basis. While these are well-worn ideas in the scientific community, which has compiled a wealth of research over the years, they have only recently moved to the forefront of popular culture's consciousness through movies, music, celebrity advocates, among others.

On one side of the spectrum, "doom and gloom" analysts are certain man is responsible for the planet's ill health and its fate lies in our hands. On the other end, critics believe it's ridiculous to conclude that man, in his short time on the planet relative to the approximately four billion years it's been spinning, could have such a dire impact.

Regardless of which side of the debate you're on, the fact is environmental issues are impacting our lives. We are well aware of this in the paint and coatings industry. Adhering to environmental regulations and developing sustainable business practices are issues reshaping the paint and coatings playing field.

Recently, the National Paint and Coatings Association (NPCA) and the Paint Product Stewardship Initiative (PPSI) joined forces to work toward the development of a nationally coordinated system for managing leftover paint. A new EPA study shows millions of gallons available for safe disposal, reuse or recycling. The study estimates that approximately ten percent of the U.S. house paint purchased each year-about 65 to 69 million gallons-is ultimately discarded.

For raw material suppliers, coping with the EU's implementation of REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals), which begins in June 2007, continues to be a challenging task.

This month Coatings World deals with environmental issues as they continue to impact both paint makers and their raw material suppliers.

In her article "Low- and Zero-VOC Coatings," Kerry Pianoforte explores the low- and zero-VOC coatings market, discussing issues such as current and future regulations, consumer awareness, the green building movement and the latest advancements in technology to hit the market. Ultimately, Ms. Pianoforte believes, to remain competitive in the years ahead paint and coatings companies must continue to address VOC content.

Marine coatings manufacturers and raw material suppliers are dealing with environmental issues all their own. The United Nations' International Maritime Organization (IMO) is still awaiting ratification of its tributyl tin (TBT) antifouling treaty, whose looming Jan. 2008 deadline is a concern for the industry. In addition, the Biocides Product Directive (BPD) for the EU, which also takes effect in Jan. 2008, will ultimately limit which biocides can be used in commercial antifouling products sold globally.

While the future is always uncertain, one thing we can be sure of in the paint and coatings industry is that these environmental issues are here to stay, as it is unlikely that government and the public will lose interest anytime soon. Industry will be forced to continue to develop more environmentally friendly solutions. While this will open pathways to new opportunities, it will also present great challenges that industry must overcome.

As a famous frog once said, "It's not easy being green."

Tim Wright

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