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Flexo Sustainable : Winter 2008
and recover the value of these materials following their use. • Use current solar income. Maximize the use of renewable energy. • Celebrate diversity. Manage water use to maximize quality, promote healthy ecosystems and respect local impacts. Guide operations and stakeholder relationships using social responsibility. Pursuing cradle-to-cradle strategies for a product, process or entire company can spur creativity and grow new business opportunities. Expanding the definition of quality by designing eco-intelligent products can provide competitive advantage, differentiate a brand, attract and retain customers, and reduce long-term risks. Starting at the Bottom In action, the cradle-to-cradle framework can be applied to assessing material health, recyclability or compostability, material recovery processes, renewable energy use, water use efficiency, effluent water quality, and social responsibility, as well as optimizing any of these that currently are deficient. In order to prepare materials and product components for recycling or composting following their use, they first need to be evaluated for their ability to safely flow through those systems and throughout their lifecycles. To this end, each material must be broken down into its individual components, which must be further broken down into chemical ingredients. Every component (e.g., a printing ink could contain a pigment/colorant, defoamer, surfactant, resin/polymer, wax, solubilizer, anti-oxidant and other additives) must be labeled with the specific chemical(s) it contains. Collaboration with the supply chain is critical to this inventory effort, since ingredient chemistry typically goes beyond the information included on a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) and direct engagement is necessary to collect the missing data. Due to the complexity of this effort—one can quickly move from two to five primary suppliers, to five to 10 secondary suppliers and 10 to 20 tertiary suppliers—and supplier concerns about proprietary information, this data collection process can require at least several months of calendar time, even for the simplest products. After the list of ingredients has been collected, each chemical must be evaluated for its own lifecycle impacts on human health and the environment, as a pure chemical. In order to complete this evaluation, peer-reviewed, publicly-available research data is searched for the following human health, environmental health and material class criteria. Human health criteria are subdivided into Priority Criteria (most important from a toxicological and public perception perspective) and Additional Criteria. Substances that do not pass the Priority Criteria are automatically considered problematic and recommended for phase-out/replacement. Environmental health criteria have immediate or long-term effects on plant or animal life. Material classes are considered problematic because, at some point in their lifecycle, they may have negative impacts on human and environmental health. For example, organohalogens tend to be persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic, or can form toxic byproducts if incinerated. Using available research data, each ingredient can be profiled for its characteristics against these criteria, based on the ratings in Table 1. 14 For example, there is no place in products for an ingredient as Sustainable FLEXO WinTer 2008 orange problematic as polyvinyl chloride (PVC, or vinyl), chloroprene, or any other polymer from the PVC family tree. Negative impacts at all phases of the lifecycle make these materials problematic and they always should be prioritized for phase-out. Other problematic ingredients that should be monitored in ink and packaging applications, and prevented where possible, include the following: • Toxic heavy metals (Lead, Mercury, Hexavalent Chromium, Cadmium, Antimony, Arsenic, Nickel). • Organotins. • Halogenated organic substances, such as biocides, colorants, or base resins. • Adipates need to be identified, since some adipates are toxic. • Bromine-based flame retardants, typically for flame resistance. • Flourine-based coatings, typically for stain or soil resistance. These same criteria and ratings can be used for the ingredients when they are used “in-situation,” or combined with other ingredients within a finished product. Such combinations may alleviate some of the ecotoxicity concerns to the point whey they are acceptable for use. This detailed analysis is critical to understand the definite, likely, potential or suspected characteristics of material formulations. An important note is that simply knowing the type of material usually is insufficient for a full evaluation of material health. For example, knowing something is a “red ink with non-chlorinated pigments” or “polypropylene” is an important first step, but it does not go far enough to identify the range of characteristics associated with the various ingredients and additives that may be combined with the base material. In fact, such additives are typically the most critical to determining the human and environmental health attributes of the overall ink, polymer or other finished material. green Ingredient/material is preferred for use. yeLLoW Ingredient/material is acceptable for use—associated with slight to moderate risk to human health or the environment; suitable for continued use until a GREEN alternative is found. red Ingredient/material is problematic—associated with one or more serious risks to human and/or environmental health; should be phased out as quickly as possible. Incomplete data—either complete ingredient data is not available or evaluation data is not available; data should be collected or ingredient should be phased out of use. Table 1 ingredient optimization and Beyond With knowledge of material ingredients, product developers can select ingredients with the most positive profiles and combine materials to design preferred products. In cases where ingredients fall short of a cradle-to-cradle ideal for material health, formulation changes should be attempted and alternative formulations should be researched collaboratively with material suppliers. This stage of ingredient optimization is required to create optimized products that are safe for human and environmental health throughout their lifecycles and include additives that do not interfere with the recy- www. f le xomag.com