BCF Launches Trace VOC Globe Scheme
Starting this month, the British Coatings Federation’s new “Trace” Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) Globe scheme will allow decorative paint manufacturers to adopt the use of the statement to improve communication with consumers.
According to BCF, Trace globe will be used for products with VOC content of less than 0.1%.
VOCs, Emission Regulations
VOCs, also know as solvents, are found in varying levels in different paint and coatings formulations. While many decorative paint manufacturers have switched to more water-based products (84%)—which reduces the presence of VOCs to low or very low—the use of solvents still contributes to atmospheric pollution.
It is for this reason that the industry continues to be committed to reducing the level of solvent in paints.
Last year, the Canadian government released a consultation document that proposed a renewal of the “Federal Agenda on the Reduction of Emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds from Consumer and Commercial Products.”
The document was noted to be the first step in informing stakeholders of places to develop specific measures to further reduce VOC emissions over the 2021-28 period.
“The approach will be to align, where possible, with requirements in place in key U.S. jurisdictions, which will contribute to a level playing field, provide regulatory certainty for business, and benefit human health and the environment,” according to the document.
Among the proposed measures and products in the agenda, there are aims to reduce VOCs in architectural coatings, automotive refinishing products, commercial and industrial adhesives and sealants, and printing. Additionally, Environment and Climate Change Canada was slated to conduct a study to evaluate and reassess potential emissions reductions from aerosol coatings.
According to the American Coatings Association, the Canadian Paint and Coatings Association will be gathering more data and will be making submissions, meeting with federal officials and engaging with a range of industry stakeholders on the EEEC report and new VOC limits for many of the 54 architectural coatings categories in Canada based on the California Air Resources Board 2019 Suggested Control Measure.
Similar regulations have been in place for some time. In February 2013, Canada published “Revisions to the Proposed Volatile Organic Compound Concentration Limits for Certain Products Regulations.”
The limits at that time would extend to some automotive coatings and paint-removal products; products to remove traffic paint; adhesive removers used as paint strippers; and some sealing and caulking compounds.
At the time, officials said that it was required to act on VOC emissions in order to improve Canada's air quality and that it plans to align its new rules with those of the U.S. “where possible.”
In 2015, China placed a tax on VOCs in paints and coatings. The new regulation, known formally as “Finance Tax (2015) Notification on Imposing Consumption Tax on Battery and Coating Products,” was developed jointly by the Ministry of Environment Protection, the Ministry of Finance, and the National Development and Reform Commission.
Published at the end of January, the regulations impose on coatings manufacturers a 4% tax on the invoice price of any coating whose ready-to-spray VOC level exceeds 420 g/L, according to ACA. In addition, new vehicle OEM facilities are already required to use only waterborne or low-VOC coatings.
Although the regulations had been under discussion for months, “the immediate implementation ... leaves coating suppliers and their customers little time to adapt formulations or administrative processes to the now-official requirements,” ACA said.
The tax will be collected by local tax authorities, and VOC levels will be verified by provincial level Quality Inspection Authorities, but many other implementation details were not released at the time.
About Trace Globe
Back in March, to mitigate greenwash claims in the industry, BCF members first announced the adoption of the statement “Trace” VOC to improve communication to consumers highlighting which products have the lowest levels of VOCs.
At the time, as the license holders of the industry-wide standard VOC Globe scheme, BCF announced it would be promoting the new “Trace” globe in the coming months as an alternative to “Zero VOCs.” BCF noted that the new guide aligns with the CMA’s Green Claims Code and focuses on six principles that are based on existing consumer law and make clear that businesses “must not omit or hide important information” and “must consider the full life cycle of the product.”
The need for the clarification arose as a result of the use of the terms “Zero-VOC” and “VOC-free,” which the BCF reports are false claims and therefore, should not be used in the paint industry. According to BCF, there will always be a trace element of VOCs, even if no raw materials containing VOCs have been added.
There are many areas throughout the process of creating a coating that VOCs could be added: From the water containing trace amounts of VOC, to raw materials that naturally contain VOCs and other processes that introduce VOCs, such as washing raw materials.
Due to these instances, the BCF feels that it is impossible to ensure that every batch of paint is completely free of VOCs because of the potential for trace solvents to be introduced at any point throughout the supply chain.
Since outlining these issues, paired with industry greenwashing, the BCF reports that the Trace VOC Globe scheme will help to better raise consumer awareness of the amount of VOCs contained in decorative paint products, thus allowing consumers to make more informed, green choices.
Products with VOC content of less than 0.1% can be highlighted through the Trace VOC Globe scheme. Greater involvement from paint manufacturers in the scheme will also greatly help paint recyclers separate solvent-based and water-based leftover paint with ease, which aids reuse and recycling.
Earlier this year, to tackle the rising number of green claims emerging in the decorative coatings industry, the BCF launched a new online guide. The “Green Claims Guide for Decorative Paints” breaks down the definitions of some of the most common phrases and buzzwords companies use when marketing decorative paints to consumers.
According to BCF, one effort to appear superior in the competitive decorative coatings industry is to have a unique selling point, such promoting a product that is non-toxic, natural, vegan, child- and pet-safe, eco-friendly or organic, among other claims.
However, the issue the industry is facing now is that some of these companies marketing green claims—claims that show how a product, service, brand or business provides a benefit or is less harmful to the environment—could actually be misleading consumers with unsubstantiated information about their products.
In a recent international analysis of websites conducted by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), it was determined that 40% of green claims made online could be misleading consumers.
To mitigate the issue of false or misleading “environmental claims” or “eco-friendly claims,” the BCF published the green claims guide, defining common “green” marketing terms in the decorative coatings industry.
In addition to defining some of the most common buzzwords and phrases in the industry, the BCF also defined “Zero Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs),” which was proven in recent years to be a greenwashing issue in the industry.
Although the release of the green claims guide is the latest effort to tackling greenwash issues, the BCF believes that more action will likely be brought against those not complying with the CMA’s Green Claims Code, ASA’s Advertising Codes and applicable consumer protection legislation.
To read the Green Claims Guide for Decorative Paints, click here.
BCF Energy Targets
Around the same time the BCF announced it was working to fight false or misleading greenwash claims, it also announced its own green goals. In late October, the association announced that it had joined other sectors in pledging to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
At the time, BCF reported that it would be committing to new targets for its paint recycling scheme, PaintCare. The ambitious new target calls for increasing the percentage leftover paint reused, recycled or remanufactured from the current 2% to 75% by 2030.
The commitments were made at a BCF Board of Directors meeting in Manchester and are slated to be backed by more detailed Net Zero Roadmaps for each BCF sector.
According to BCF, sustainable production and recycling of paint have been a key focus in the United Kingdom’s coating industry since 1996 and are the basis for nearly 50 health, safety and environment key performance indicators monitored through the BCF’s Coatings Care program.
Latest Coatings Care figures showed record low levels of energy used in production as well as a significant decrease in production waste. Additional figures revealed that 71% of production waste is now recycled, compared to 17% in 1996.