When Product Stewards Cooperate, the Whole Industry Benefits

When the EPA first created the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program, it presumed an impact from polyurethane emissions (MDI) that the industry knew was excessive. So the industry’s trade association got together and built a more accurate model based upon the vapor pressure of MDI. “We really made a big difference. We dropped the MDI emission dramatically for these chemicals,” says William Robert, product steward at BASF. “We knew they couldn’t emit that much, but now we have a way for customers to calculate their total emissions based on whether the product is from drums or rail cars, IH measurements in their plants, and manufacturing methods — whether it’s open-mold or closed-mold, and so on.”

That early cooperation continues in the form of the Center for the Polyurethanes Industry, which acts as a clearinghouse for environmental, health and safety information. It works closely with the International Isocyanate Institute, which conducts research only, and the American Chemistry Council’s Diisocyanate Panel to integrate health research, safety information and advocacy. For example, the groups will develop and disseminate primary data for REACH registrations if necessary.

“The way it’s set up, we have different organizations – one addresses long-range issue and looks at what data should we have that we don’t,” says Robert. “The next piece is taking the data that’s generated and developing useful literature for downstream users.”

It’s a model that Robert thinks can be applied more widely to other products. He’ll go into more detail about how others can adapt the same strategies at Stewardship 2017, during the presentation Polyurethane Value Chain Advocacy.

In addition to the industry benefits, Robert says strong trade associations have personal benefits as well. “The trade associations helped me a great deal to develop as a person and really develop as a product steward,” he says. “I learned so much from really good people in the field who turned out to be some of my best friends. This presentation is for people who want to grow and understand the advocacy that’s involved in these areas.”


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