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Shaw Industries, Kilian Reveal Chemical Substitution Successes

German sign manufacturer Kilian Industrieschilder and carpet firm Shaw Industries are among the companies that have found environmentally friendly substitutes for problematic or dangerous chemicals in their manufacturing processes, according to the backers of a new online tool for manufacturers.

According The International Chemical Secretariat (ChemSec), one of the organizations behind online substitutions tool SubsPort, Kilian had been using tetrachloroethylene as a solvent to remove nameplates’ protective layers, which were no longer needed after lacquering. However, the company is based in a water protection area and the safe handling of the substance was becoming costly and time consuming. After a few trials, the signmaker settled on using esters based on coconut oil, which it says are safer and more effective for the task than tetrachloroethylene.

Berkshire Hathaway-owned Shaw has set itself strict environmental goals concerning cradle-to-grave recycling principles, such as eliminating hazardous chemicals from its production, and making its products 100 percent recyclable. The company’s use of industry standard PVC backing presented potential hazards in manufacture, use and disposal, according to SubsPort literature. According to Shaw, recyclers are often wary to take PVC-contaminated nylon for non-carpet applications. To overcome this, the company identified a food-grade metallocene polyolefin compound that allowed it to eliminate PVC.

SubsPort, short for Substitutions Portal, has been launched by an alliance of four European environmental and labor groups: ChemSec, The Instituto Sindical de Trabajo Ambiente y Saludand, and consultancies Kooperationsstelle Hamburg and Grontmij.

The online platform gives guidance on how to find safer alternatives to some of the world’s most hazardous chemicals and offers real-world examples of how other organizations have avoided such substances, the groups said.

Substituting dangerous chemicals with safe ones can be a time-consuming process, but the groups say it can be relatively easy if companies take inspiration from what other organizations have done. The database currently holds around 100 substitution stories, including examples of how companies have found alternatives for perfluorinated substances, brominated flame retardants, PVC and perchloroethylene.

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