Wurzburg, Germany -- REACH -- the European Union's legislation on regulation, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals -- has imposed many challenges on the polyurethanes sector, as described by Dr Juergen Groenen of iSL Chemie GmbH & Co. KG, in a 19 Nov presentation at a meeting of the FSK, the German the German association for foamed plastics producers.
As well as requiring registration of chemicals, REACH is also concerned with their safe handling during product manufacture, so a current concern for polyurethane processors is the need to define their production conditions in a standard way, Groenen explained. This has to be carried out so that foamers can evalute the hazard and risk in handling, to perform an environmental exposure assessment in their plants.
The view here, commented Groenen, is that it is not sensible for each individual company or plant to develop process categories. Groenen pointed out that, "even ECHA (the European Chemicals Agency which oversees REACH) has said industries should do this together in groups."
Rather than each individual company assessing every aspect of their processes in exhaustive detail, the industry associations are working together to produce information and descriptions of processes, for companies to adopt.
FSK has worked with ISOPA (the European Diisocyanates and Polyols Producers Association) here to get an idea of what downstream users can use for process categories, said Groenen (pictured), who is the FSK's representative dealing with REACH.
The aim is to develop lists of process categories that apply to typical PU processes, and it has a small group of experts assembled to demonstrate and define these categories, Groenen said.
He also cautioned that the industry faces problems from environmental groups, pointing out that these have set up a body which might easily be taken as representing the chemicals industry, as it is called ChemSec (the International Chemical Secretariat).
This group has produced what it calls a SIN (substitute it now) list of 300 chemicals, which it wants banned immediately. Many of these are in common use in the polymer sector, Groenen indicated.
Groenen described this group as trying to put pressure on manufacturers, by threatening to inform customers such as Swedish furniture giant IKEA that they are using these SIN materials.
See more on Groenen's presentation at the FSK meeting in the next issue of Urethanes Technology International.