ACC CPI: Sharing practice is best practice

21 September 2012 10:52  [Source: ICB]

Product stewardship and sustainability are high on the agenda at CPI, which coordinates advice and produces useful materials for companies seeking to improve their performance in these areas


 Polyurethane producers need to review EH&S performance at sites regularly

Copyright: RexFeatures

Producers of polyurethanes (PUs) and precursors spend much of their energy looking for ways to take a bigger piece of the market pie. But when it comes to environmental, health, safety and sustainability (EHS&S) issues, everyone knows that sharing is the best practice.

For members of the American Chemistry Council's Center for the Polyurethanes Industry (CPI), that means participating in the product stewardship committee and/or the sustainability committee.

The CPI's product stewardship committee develops environmental, health and safety (EHS) programmes and literature. It also coordinates related research and maintains relationships with regulatory and legislative bodies, says Heather Palfrey, manager, environmental, health and safety at the American Chemistry Council (ACC). Ultimately, the committee's objective is to support the safe use, handling and disposal of PU raw materials.

About 25 CPI members participate in the product stewardship committee, which is co-chaired by Jean Kasakevich, senior EH&S global product manager at US-based major Dow Chemical, and James Chapman, manager, product safety at Bayer MaterialScience, which is based in Germany.

"All the companies do have their own product stewardship materials, as it relates directly to their products," Palfrey notes. "What we try to do is provide some general over-arching guidance that comes not only from a company per se, but from the industry as a whole."

For example, the committee has developed a tool, the Regulatory Compliance Assistance Program (RCAP), which helps facilities that manufacture, process or otherwise use isocyanates understand, and provides guidance on estimating emissions for reporting to, the US Environmental Protection Agency's Toxic Release Inventory. A spreadsheet, RCAP helps with the calculations. It also includes an extensive guidance document with examples and an email help line.

A new, more user-friendly version of RCAP was released for MDI (methyl di-p-phenylene isocyanate) and PMDI (polymeric MDI) in May, and a version for TDI (toluene diisocyanate) was offered for the first time in July. The tool is freely available on CPI's website regardless of membership.

Another task of the product stewardship committee is to create guidance documents and materials for end users. In 2011, for example, CPI released a health and safety guidance video for businesses using spray polyurethane foam (SPF) to line truck beds.

To supply health and safety information to workers in construction settings, CPI provides a dedicated website, Separate sections are tailored to four categories of user - professional contractors, weatherising contractors, do-it-yourselfers, and homeowners hiring a professional.

One highlight of the website is a free online health and safety training course aimed at workers who apply professional-grade, high-pressure SPF for both interior and exterior applications. The course covers the use, handling and disposal of SPF; potential health hazards; and appropriate control measures, including engineering controls and personal protective equipment.

The committee's output reflects the very practical nature of product stewardship. For example, two of the most recent guidance documents address the ins and outs of safely melting TDI and MDI in drums. Another new document, which will be featured in a poster at CPI's technical conference in Atlanta, Georgia, provides detailed guidance on freight securement. Still another focuses on labelling.

The CPI's product stewardship committee and its sustainability committee both help create the conditions necessary for PUs to provide the greatest benefit to society, but they approach the goal from opposite directions.

CPI's product stewardship initiatives help ensure that the benefits of PUs are not diminished by promoting the responsible handling of precursors. Its sustainability initiatives, by contrast, help maximise these benefits by characterising them, educating consumers and providing guidelines facilitating the most effective means of achieving them.

Sustainability is often discussed in terms of a "triple bottom line" - economy, society and environment. "PUs bring solutions to all three, providing new products which generate economic growth, including jobs, as well as numerous benefits to the environment," notes Richard Skorpenske, chair of CPI's sustainability committee and head, NAFTA PU advocacy & sustainability at Bayer MaterialScience.

Skorpenske participated in the recent restructuring of CPI, which resulted in the formation of the sustainability committee. "PU chemistry is so diverse that there are many opportunities to contribute to society's challenges, today and in the future," he says. "The sustainability committee is responsible for surveying the external landscape, identifying key issues and developing strategies to apply PU solutions. My personal objectives are to leverage the collective skills and experiences of CPI's members and staff to create sustainable growth for our industry."

Although the sustainability committee is new, the issue of sustainability has long been a focus for CPI, he notes. One of the organisation's greatest successes has been to increase awareness of the benefits of PUs to energy efficiency, primarily in providing extraordinarily efficient insulation, but also in reducing the weight of automobiles and facilitating other product innovations that improve indoor air quality, increase human comfort and address infrastructure needs.

"We began the year by bringing together a broad spectrum of CPI member company representatives with interest in a wide range of products, markets and applications," Skorpenske says. "That effort resulted in the identification of several workgroups and other issues which will be monitored by the overarching committee."

The sustainability committee identified five key areas of focus, he says: codes & standards; combustibility; blowing agents; life-cycle management; and raw material methods.

"The workgroups which have formed under each of these topics are addressing important industry issues such as energy efficiency in new and existing buildings, the fire safety of PUs; environmentally friendly blowing agents; and aspects of PUs from a life cycle perspective," he says.

Skorpenske notes that many of these issues are to be discussed at the technical conference. "One work group that may not naturally fall under some conventional definitions of sustainability is the raw material methods group, which works to keep both ASTM and ISO analytical methods up to state-of-the-art standards," he observes.

Are you new to polyurethanes (PUs) and a little disoriented? Or are you an industry veteran interested in broadening your knowledge? Either way, you could benefit from the Center for the Polyurethane Industry's Professional Development Program (PDP).

Now in its ninth year, the PDP is a set of educational and training seminars held alongside the CPI's annual Polyurethanes Technical Conference.

"The basic premise is to introduce and educate a broad spectrum of personnel to the knowledge base of PUs," says Richard Werner, director, foam & plastic technology at Cannon USA. "We bring experts from the industry to present aspects of the chemistry, technology, applications & markets, process equipment, and testing related to PUs and PU industry."

Werner and Juan Carlos Medina, group leader, PU chemistry at Dow Chemical, co-chair the CPI's PDP committee, which chooses the topics covered.

"We are constantly reviewing the course content and comments from course evaluation sheets completed by the attendees," Werner notes. "Course material and presentations are added and adapted based on this feedback."

Two examples illustrate the process. PU 105, PU Processing Equipment, was first offered as a half-day session, but after both attendees and presenters suggested additional content, it was expanded to a full day. Presenters made another enhancement last year by bringing equipment components and parts to provide attendees with hands-on experience of actual pumps and devices.

PU 104, CASE (Coatings, Adhesives, Sealants & Elastomers), received a very different response: too much material. "The attendees felt the content was too large for one full day session," says Werner, "and the instructor did not have adequate time to answer questions and explore points in more depth."

The committee addressed that issue by splitting PU 104 into two separate, day-long courses, PU 104A (Adhesives and Sealants) and PU 104B (Coatings and Elastomers) in 2011.

"The end result was that both the instructor and attendees were quite positive with the change and believed the content to be more informative and involved, rather than rushed," Werner says.

The PDP committee is also responsible for enlisting industry experts as instructors for the courses. "For example," says Werner, "PU 101, Introduction to PU Chemistry, is presented by an individual who has many years in PU polymer chemistry and extensive processing and application experience."


  • PU 101: Introduction to Polyurethane Chemistry
    23 September
  • PU 102: Introduction to Polyurethane Technology
    25 September
  • PU 103: Polyurethane Markets and Applications
    25 September
  • PU 104A: Polyurethane Adhesives & Sealants
    23 September
  • PU 104B: Polyurethane Coatings and Elastomers
    24 September
  • PU 105: Polyurethane Processing Equipment
    24 September
  • PU 201: PU Raw Materials, Testing, Specifications and Performance: The Myth and the Magic
    23 September
  • PU 204: Physical Testing of PU Foams
    24 September

For more details on the CPI's EH&S activity

By: Clay Boswell
+1 713 525 2653

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