May 28, 2009

Breaktime!

green luggage.jpg
The green blogger is on a short weekend vacation trying to recharge. Will be back on June 2.

Learning from Green's History

Speaking of history, have you ever wondered how the green movement came to being? An article from ICIS Chemical Business (the magazine I work for) examined the rise of green consciousness during the 1960s triggered by Rachel Carson's 1962 bestselling book Silent Spring.

The book documented the effect of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) on wildlife, particularly birds, and also attacked the way in which the claims made by the chemical industry were accepted uncritically by public officials.

1972 saw the first international conference on the environment convened by the United Nations in Stockholm, Sweden, while in the 1980s saw increased in community-based organizations.

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Ford invests (again) in green products

Ford Motor Company is going back to its roots (soybeans specifically) and is now further investing in more eco-friendly materials and products for automobile parts - interior components front to back, seat cushions and fabrics, underbody and impact shields, headliners, trunk liners, etc.

Here are current biobased products already in their cars:
  • Soy-based polyurethane foams on the seat cushions and seat backs, now in production on the Ford Mustang, Expedition, F-150, Focus, Escape, Escape Hybrid, Mercury Mariner and Lincoln Navigator and Lincoln MKS. Soy-foam headliner on the 2010 Escape and Mariner.
  • 100% post-industrial recycled yarns in seat fabrics for the 2008 Ford Escape. 85% post-industrial yarns and 15 percent solution died yarns for the 2010 Fusion and Mercury Milan Hybrids.
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May 27, 2009

Wind farm 'kills Taiwanese goats'

Bats may not be the only creatures having problems with wind farms. It seems these are also being blamed for these goats' insomnia-related deaths.

According to this report from BBC News, the poor goats (about 400 of them) died from exhaustion.because of noise coming from the wind turbines installed almost 40 meters away near the goat owner's grazing land.

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Top climate lobbyists

As mentioned in yesterday's post, New York Times posted this interesting article about major firms lobbying for businesses and organizations that seek to influence global warming legislation this year. According to a recent study from the watchdog group Center for Public Integrity, more than half of those 880 total businesses and groups are manufacturers, power companies, and the oil and gas industry.

The number of interests lobbying on global warming is also up 14% this year compared to last year. And that's just in the first quarter.


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May 26, 2009

Weekly News Roundup

As mentioned last week, the chemical industry's lawyers and lobbyists are busy lining up in Washington to have their say on the recently proposed Waxman-Markey bill especially concerning its cap-and-trade emissions plan.

Speaking of lobbyists, the New York Times posted a pretty interesting article on top climate change lobbyists in Washington, which I'll post later on this week. For now here are some of last week's green news from around the world:

Rhodia's GHG reduction project
Rhodia received the first Emission Reduction Units generated in Europe, coming from a greenhouse gas emission reduction project located in its French industrial site of Salindres. The project, which started in August 2008, will enable an average annual reduction of about 200 000 tons of CO2 equivalent over the 2009-2012 period.

Fluor's new clean energy biz
Engineering company Fluor has formed a dedicated business line within its Power Group to focus on global renewable energy needs specifically for clients in the solar, wind and biomass sectors.

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Let the climate change debates begin

Washington (and the chemical industry) is abuzz this week with the proposed American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act by House Reps Waxman and Markey.

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce passed the bill on May 21 with a 33-25 vote. The bill aims to cut global warming pollution by 17% compared to 2005 levels in 2020, by 42% in 2030, and by 83% in 2050. The House is now expected to vote on the amended bill in the next few months.

The most controversial plan under the bill is the proposed cap-and-trade (or is it tax?) program where it would cap US industrial and transportation emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHG) and auction emissions permits to the broad industrial sector. The sale of emissions permits would likely raise $646bn during its first eight years of implementation, according to the White House.



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May 21, 2009

Chemicals gain in solar energy

It seems that whenever I get tons of wind energy news, the solar market is not far behind.

According to this recent report from Linx-AEI Consulting, the global market for advanced chemicals and materials used in photovoltaic solar cells and modules might decline this year to $2.3 billion (probably because of the current economy) but it will resume strong growth by 2015 approaching around $15bn.

The driver of growth in the PV market will be the global end market demand for solar power, which is expected to grow from 5.7 GW to 36 GW over the same time period, said Linx-AEI.

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Windy news

Another catching up I need to do is about several wind energy announcements from the past few weeks.

Late last month, the Department of Energy announced that it will provide $93 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support further development of wind energy in the United States. In additional, DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will get an additional $100 million (and more) to upgrade its facility and infrastructure.

According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA),the US industry installed over 2,800 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity in the first quarter of 2009.

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Toxic Media?

A toxicologists survey by Harris Interactive on behalf of the Statistical Assessment Service (STATS) and Center for Health and Risk Communication at George Mason University, found that majorities of toxicologists rate most government agencies as accurately portraying chemical risks, but they rate the media as well as leading environmental activist groups as overstating risks.

This survey of 937 members of the Society of Toxicology (SOT) was administered online from Jan 27 to March 2.

Survey director Dr. Robert Lichter said the public doesn’t get a full and balanced picture of chemical risk and that the media and scientists ultimately share the responsibility for how chemical risks are portrayed to the public.

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May 20, 2009

EPA cancels carbofuran use

Before I delved more deeply into the green regulatory buzzwords of the week CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) and ACES (American Clean Energy and Security Act), let me go to the more simple news such as this cancellation of carbofuran registration by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

The blog posted last year in July about EPA's proposal to cancel the pesticide's registration. I guess it took them almost a year to make a definite action as the sole producer of the pesticide, FMC, filed a protest (and a lawsuit) against the EPA. The agency started its carbofuran cancellation effort in 2006.

Carbofuran is an N-methyl carbamate insecticide and nematicide that has been registered to control pests in soil and on leaves in a variety of field, fruit, and vegetable crops.

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Guides to safe plastics

Plastic manufacturers beware! I've been seeing a lot of these "Guides on safe plastics" in the tweeting world...

Here's one from the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility. They place HDPE (#2), LDPE (#4) and PP (#5) as safe plastics, while the rest -- PET (#1), PVC (#3), PS (#6), and others including polycarbonate (#7), not safe.

Here's a Healthier Food Uses of Plastics advice from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy: "With your food, use #4, #5, #1 and #2. #3 and #6 are not good for you!"

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May 19, 2009

Yummy cosmetic butters

Just got this email from our good friends at BioChemica about their new organic fruit butters for personal care applications, which they launched at the New York Society of Cosmetic Chemists (SCC) Suppliers' Day.

These butters, consisting of fruits such as Acai, Pomegranate, Cranberry, Blueberry and Black Currant, look so darn tempting that I can't resist posting their pictures.

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Teflon lawsuit didn't stick

Catching up on some of the twitter news I encountered last week, one is a May 1 ruling from Judge Ronald Longstaff in Iowa that said DuPont is off the hook with its Teflon case.

DuPont said the Des Moines, Iowa, federal court dismissed a consolidated group of 22 cases filed on behalf of consumers who purchased cookware with Teflon® non-stick coating.

The 4-year old suit alleged Teflon-coated cookwares when heated to normal cooking temperatures release toxic particles particularly perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) that pose a health risk to consumers.

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Philly rejects plastic bag tax

It looks like I'm having a field week with plastics...

The American Chemistry Council's (ACC) Progressive Bag Affiliates said today that Philadelphia's City Council rejected on May 14 the proposed 25-cent-per-bag tax on plastic and paper grocery bags.

The ACC welcomed the City Council's vote and said that recycling is the answer and not taxing consumers.

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Cereplast exits bioplastic manufacturing


Instead of manufacturing its own bioplastic, Cereplast said it will follow the semiconductor industry's business model and rely on contract manufacturing to reduce costs.

The California-based bioplastic producer said that it is exiting the manufacturing business and instead will contract with large compounders to produce its bio-based resins because of a worldwide excess of plastics compounding capacity. Cereplast will instead focus on product development and customer service.

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[Photo from CNET Networks]

May 18, 2009

Cosmetic suppliers say naturals still hot

As mentioned last week, the green blogger attended this year's annual New York Society of Cosmetic Chemists (SCC) Suppliers' Day in New Jersey, and based on interviews that I had with several chemical companies, one trend that continues to be big for cosmetic and personal care formulators is the use of natural-based/sustainable ingredients and processing.

Evonik Goldschmidt's Lauren Kjeldsen said that aside from anti-aging, natural-based products are big sellers in the cosmetic and personal care market worldwide. The company launched at the show a new natural-based thickening agent called Antil Soft SC, which the company said, can work as a foam booster even in polyethylene glycol (PEG)-free and sulfate-free skin and hair care product formulations.

The ingredient is said to be readily biodegradable and conforms to Ecocert standards, which certifies whether an ingredient is really natural or organic. Ecocert and organic certification was the buzzword at last year's show but it seems to have died down a bit this year.

Evonik launched six new products at the show and another ingredient that was highlighted (in terms of 'greeness') was its ethylene oxide (EO)-free liquid concentrate, Tego Wipe Lux, for cosmetic wet wipes. The emulsifier/emollient/phenoxyethanol is said to contain cottonseed oil.

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More bioplastic news

Here are more green plastic news from last week. Incidentally, I am preparing for a bioplastic article for ICIS Chemical Business so watch out for that in June.

First stop is Coca-Cola's announcement of its new plant-based plastic bottle, 30% of which is made from sugar cane and molasses. The rest of the plastic is petroleum-based polyethylene (PET).

The company said the 100% recyclable plastic bottle can be processed through existing manufacturing and recycling facilities without contaminating traditional PET. Coca-Cola North America will pilot the "PlantBottle™" with Dasani and sparkling brands in select markets later this year and with VitaminWater in 2010.

Bioplastic manufacturer Metabolix, meanwhile, got proof that their plastic is compostable in Europe. The company's Mirel™ bioplastic resins received the Vinçotte certification of “OK Compost” for compostability in an industrial composting unit and “OK Compost HOME” for compostability in home composting systems. Hmmm, only ok?? No great, plantastic, or plantabulous???

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Weekly News Roundup

Interesting news last week was the introduction of the House of Representatives 2454 bill - the American Clean Energy and Security Act, by Waxman and Markey. This is the bill where the controversial cap-and-trade program is being proposed. Several news reports indicate that several environmental groups are not satisfied by this bill, and energy-intensive industries of course, are not happy either.

The bill is expected to be voted on this week before Memorial Day weekend starts. We'll see how it will goes. For now, here are last week's news roundup:

Michigan's electric vehicle plant
Ford invests $550 million to transform Michigan Assembly Plant (formerly Michigan Truck Plant) from a large SUV factory into a modern, flexible small car plant. Production for the North American market of the new global Ford Focus begins next year followed by production in 2011 of a battery-electric Focus.

Engineering waste reduction
Water engineering and services company Ecosphere signed a deal with Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) to jointly market Ecosphere's technology to the oil & gas industry where it can treat and recycle their wastewater, reduce completion costs, reduce CO2 and methane emissions, and preserve vital water resources.

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May 15, 2009

Green plastic surges in Brazil

Several bioplastic news came out last week as reporters from ICIS (the company I work for) covered the recent BrasilPlast tradeshow.

Officials from BASF and Corn Products International announced their plans to build a new plant in Sao Paulo for the production of starch-based plastics. BASF is said to have already started producing the “green” resin in small quantities through a smaller third party company hired for mixing the products.


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May 14, 2009

AOCS wrap-up Day 3

The green blogger focused mostly on regulatory issues in the cleaning industry during the last day of the American Oil Chemists Society (AOCS) centennial meeting in Orlando, Florida, even though her doppelganger (who was lounging in the hotel pool) was ordered to attend either the biobased surfactants session; green processing for industrial veggie oil-based chemicals; or the session for new glycerine uses.

The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA) presented two topics, one on phosphate regulations for automatic dishwashing detergents (ADDs), and the other covering the growing consumer demand for ingredient disclosures in consumer cleaning products.

The SDA's general counsel, Michelle Radecki, pointed out that the cleaning industry is facing a lot of pressures towards disclosing ingredients in their products especially with the Green Chemistry legislation recently enacted in California.

The SDA, along with the Consumer Specialty Products Association (CSPA) and its Canadian counterpart, the CCSPA, formed a voluntary consumer product ingredient communication initiative, where members will disclosed all their chemical ingredients (with the exception of fragrances, preservatives and dyes) in their air care, automotive, cleaning and polishes and floor maintenance products, starting January 1, 2010.

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Another Spain study critic

I got this email from the Washington News Observer (sort of like TMZ except covering politics instead of celebrity news *lol*) and they send several YouTube clips about their exclusive interview with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) criticizing Obama's emulation of Spain's renewable energy industry. This topic seems to be getting a lot of comments and debates.



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Cap-and-Trade pains

I mentioned about Kimberly-Clark's recent prediction that any cap-and-trade bills in Washington will not pass this year as the government is broke right now and can't afford to pass a risky (and possibly expensive) legislation.

ICIS Chemical Business (the magazine I work for) actually interviewed Eastman Chemical's chairman and CEO Brian Ferguson who is also outspoken and more critical about the cap-and-trade proposal.
"The cap-and-trade proposal, which would tax US companies using fossil fuels, could be “crippling” to US manufacturers," Ferguson said.

“These are additional costs that foreign competitors who import into the US wouldn’t have to bear. We must have an energy policy that takes this into account and does not put us at further competitive disadvantage.”

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May 13, 2009

AOCS wrap-up Day 2

[Photo of AOCS annual meeting 1945. Photo Credit: AOCS]

The second day at the American Oil Chemists Society (AOCS) centennial meeting was particularly interesting as in their Hot Topics Symposia for the morning session, I have to choose between Historical Perspectives on the Chemistry of Oils and Fats (given that I was writing an article last week with this particular topic) and Sustainability for the Future in Fats and Oils.

I flipped a coin and the Sustainability topic won.

This was actually fortunate as the presentations from Unilever and Kimberly-Clark were very engaging and informative.

Kimberly-Clark (or "K-C") was vocal about about the irritating lack of definition for the term "green" and prefers the word "sustainable" instead. The company defined sustainability according to Dow Jones Sustainability Index definition:
"It's a business approach to create long-term shareholder value by embracing opportunities and managing risk derived from economic, environmental and social developments"
The company said it led the personal products category of the 2008 Dow Jones Sustainability World Index for fourth straight year.

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Chemical companies: Green surfers or divers?

ICIS (the company I work for) in cooperation with technology start-up company Genomatica is working on a survey on whether chemical companies these days are just riding the sustainable chemistry wave e.g. looking at energy/manufacturing efficiency, using renewable energy in manufacturing, planting trees to offset carbon emissions...or are they already deep into applying green chemistry such as using petro-alternative, zero-carbon emitting, zero waste processing and renewable raw feedstock.

According to Genomatica
, several waves of sustainability thinking are already sweeping across chemical producers, with some companies further advanced than others.
"In the first wave, companies are taking a keen interest in improving their sustainability, mainly through looking at energy usage and their carbon footprint. In the second wave, they are examining the products themselves, and beginning to ask whether they can produce materials in a more sustainable manner from renewable feedstocks." - Genomatica
Do you agree or disagree on this? Tell us what you think by filling up this survey about sustainable chemicals.

The results will be aggregated and analyzed by ICIS and reported in the magazine at the end of June. ICIS is offering an iPod Touch to the person whose name is drawn first from the list of those completing the survey.


May 12, 2009

AOCS wrap-up Day 1

So here's a snapshot of my days at the American Oil Chemists Society's (AOCS) 100th year meeting in Rosen Shingle Creek resort in Orlando, Florida. The meeting was attended by around 1,520 delegates, down from last year's 1,700 mostly because of the economic downturn (they assured me it's not because of the pig flu scare...)


Day 1: May 4 - Monday Morning
The Soap & Detergent (S&D) session started their green theme topic at 7:55a (yes, that early!) covering presentations such as Akzo Nobel's new biodegradable chelating agent from L-glutamic acid. The chelate L-glutamic acid, N,N-diacetic acid ("GL" for short) also allows formulators to reduce water content and thus also reduce packaging and transport impact of consumer goods, Akzo Nobel said.

GL is said to have around 53% bio-based content.

Cognis, meanwhile, explained how their green formulation classification works. One of the major problems in creating green formulation for home care and personal care, said Cognis, is the lack of national and international green standards. In cleaning products, the lack of green polymers and green foam stabilizers has also made it difficult [but not impossible] to develop superior-performance green cleaning chemicals.

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May 11, 2009

Weekly News Roundup

Sooo many news to catch up such especially updates on the wind energy market, green plastics, regulations and developments in the cleaning industry, and a little bit of green chemistry overview. Hopefully I'll be able to post a lot of them this week.

I'll also attend tomorrow's Society of Cosmetic Chemists' (NY branch) Suppliers' Day and maybe will get some updates on new green ingredients [and processing] development for cosmetics and personal care. Stay tune!

For now, here are last week's new roundup:

Europe wants woodchips
Green Energy Resources a 5-year contract for thirty-six (36) shipments per year of woodchips for energy use valued at $61 million/year. The company's target is to capture a 20% market share of European woodchip energy imports by 2011.

Green Americhem
Color and additive solutions provider Americhem says it is switching its primary coolant use in manufacturing to liquid nitrogen to reduce CO2 emissions. The company also plans to have zero landfill output from all their facilities by the end of 2013.

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BPA demand soft

I wonder if continuous pressure from advocates and regulators are finally affecting demand for bisphenol-A (BPA)?

BPA producer Hexion Specialty Chemicals recently announced its plans to indefinitely idle its BPA3 production unit, part of its manufacturing complex in Deer Park, Texas.

Hexion said the decision was made because of continued soft demand for BPA due to the economic downturn.

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May 8, 2009

Green blog burn out

The Green blogger is under deadline for the rest of the week and will not be able to post (and answer blog-related emails) until Monday. Sorry folks, gotta earn my keep!

I'll be back on Monday with a wrap-up of [some of] last week's American Oil Chemists Society (AOCS) centennial meeting in Orlando and history tidbits of the fats and oils-based chemical industry.

Stay tune!

May 6, 2009

Will organic sales still go up in '09?

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) reported that total organic sales last year grew 17% despite tough economic times.

US organic food sales grew 16% to reach $22.9 billion, while organic non-food sales grew 39% to $1.648 billion. Organic food sales is said to now account for 3.5% of all food product sales in the US.

According to OTA, drivers for the increase include increasing stores offering organic products. Major organic brands are also offering more coupons, and value-positioned products, while private label brands have also increased contributing to more sales.

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May 5, 2009

Should solar manufacturers invest in the US?

If the US is expected to become one of the largest solar market, then shouldn't we be investing in solar manufacturing instead of having the solar materials imported?

That is one of the ongoing debate being discussed at consulting and tax firm Deloitte.

Many solar players are said to be opting to invest their solar manufacturing plants in cheaper places such as China unless the government will give incentives for them to invest in the US. Another counterpoint is that current US incentives being given are still not as competitive as other countries.

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New soy-based industrial projects

The United Soybean Board (USB) gave me an update during the #AOCS meeting about new industrial projects (and a long list at that) on soy-based development as of April 2009.

In plastics category, there are about 28 projects; 7 in lubricants and solvents; 6 in fibers; 23 in coatings, inks and adhesives; and 15 in other emerging industrial applications such as soy oil biofuel cell; arabitol/xylitol from biodiesel-based glycerol; high energy density glycerol battery; soy meals to hydrogels; and methyl soyate as a mosquito larvicide.

Recently completed projects include:
  • Dow Chemical's soy polyol monomer development and trials
  • Chevron Phillips' soy-based polythiol research and development
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May 4, 2009

Green reading on the plane

Wherever you go there is definitely no escaping the growing media attention on green.

On the way to Orlando, I picked up Delta's Sky magazine (May 2009 issue) and lo and behold, two top green stories, one about their top 10 Eco Resorts and the other, an interesting analysis on plastic water bottle.

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Weekly News Roundup

I'm off this week to the Mickey Mouse World attending the American Oil Chemists Society's (AOCS) centennial meeting. Posts will be a little erratic as I cover the event but watch out for my tweets about the state of biodiesel, developments in the use of fats and oils in industrial and chemical applications, and regulatory presentations on surfactants, cosmetics and cleaning products.

For now, here are last week's news roundup focusing mostly on alternative energy (too busy meeting deadlines last week to search for more..)

World's largest solar tower plant
Abengoa Solar has begun commercial operation of the new PS20 solar power tower plant located at the Solucar Platform, near Seville (Spain). The new 20-megawatt solar power plant will produce enough energy to supply 10,000 homes. In another news, Abengoa is said to be developing new materials for higher-efficient and lower-cost CO2 capture processes.

Clean coal plant starts
White Energy Company (WEC) completed construction of the first one million tonne/year clean coal upgrading modular plant at Bayan's Tabang mine in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. The plant utilises WEC's Binderless Coal Briquetting clean coal upgrading technology.

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May 1, 2009

April green chemicals

A record-breaking product launch last month for chemicals that are purportedly eco-friendly, green, sustainable (etc) maybe in celebration of earth week? There were lots of twittering this week about green washing and growing skepticism on "green" products and so I wonder which one of these will not make the green cut...

1. Rhodia eco-solvent - Rhodia says its new solvent, Rhodiasolv IRIS, designed for numerous uses such as paint stripping, graffiti removers, industrial cleaning, paint and coating formulation, is readily biodegradable, non VOC* (volatile organic compound), non toxic and non flammable. The product is said to be a suitable alternative to traditional VOC solvents or toxic solvents, such as methylene chloride or N-Methylpyrrolidone.

2. PPG green coatings - PPG Industries says its new Desoprime HS CA 7502 high-solids exterior epoxy primer can be an alternative to chromated pretreatment and primers used in aircraft painting system.

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