Polyurethanes and the cold food chain: time to talk about food security

In 2015 Milan will host the Universal Exposition entitled “Feeding the Planet, Energy for life”. It will focus on nutrition and resource across the world. As we write these lines, there are more than 7.2 billion people on the planet: growing world population is a challenge for us all, and it is our responsibility to participate in meeting it.

Research and innovation will be key in tackling avoidable waste. Polyurethane is crucial to ensuring the safety and efficiency of one of the most important links of the food chain: the cold food chain. From farm to fork, your food will travel in food processing facilities, containers and trucks, cold rooms and display cabinets before reaching your very own refrigerator or freezer and finally laying on your table, ready for consumption. Polyurethane is essential throughout: professional and domestic refrigerating appliances need strong insulation to ensure your food will not get spoiled by temperature changes. Not only does polyurethane ensures this insulation; polyurethanes have also been innovating constantly to ensure that we use less and less energy to preserve our foodstuff. Nowadays, refrigerators are 60% more efficient than 15 years ago. And we are committed to continue ensuring increased comfort and reduced environmental footprint for all users of polyurethane.Refigerators efficiency

European policy-makers are increasingly aware and mobilised on this issue. This month the European Parliament welcomed Franz Fischler, Chair of the EXPO Milano 2015 Scientific Steering Committee: he notably told Members of the European Parliament about the importance of reducing waste to ensure food security. The European Commission was expected to present a proposal on food waste last Summer, and we hope it will soon present a concrete and ambitious proposal.

The coming months leading to EXPO 2015 will be a great opportunity for all of us to think upon our role and responsibility in the food chain. ISOPA will bring to the debate the innovation and performance of the polyurethane industry which makes the cold food chain a key element of tackling food waste in Europe.

If you would like to learn more about the role of polyurethane in the cold food chain, you can have a look at our factsheet.

In the meantime, you can connect with us on Twitter and tell us your story: use the #PUfoodwaste  to tell us how you participate in tackling food waste!



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Polyurethanes can save lives!

Last week, a researcher was rescued from one of Germany’s deepest caves, where he had been trapped more than 1,000 meters deep for 11 days. Hundreds of rescuers and doctors, coming from five different countries, took part in the operation.

And polyurethane was there to help them, too.

Johann Westhauser’s head was protected by a helmet made of polyurethane on his way out of the cave. Given that the unfortunate explorer suffered head injuries during a rock fall, it was especially crucial that this helmet provided the best level of safety during his rescue when his head had to be kept stable during upwards movement through extremely narrow cave passages.

In addition to offering safety and comfort, a very important property of polyurethane made helmet is to serve as an impact protector. It was all the more necessary as rescuers had to protect Johann W. from more rock falls as they got him out. Luckily, the great work of the rescue team combined with the strong material protection led him out of the cave safely.

Polyurethane is in fact found in a wide range of safety equipment, including safety helmets and safety goggles. In helmets, it is generally in the foam padding which is vital to protect your head from shock.

So, next time you wear a safety helmet, be it for work or leisure, remember that polyurethane could just save your life!

Johann Westhauser on his way back to the surface, his head safely protected by a helmet made of polyurethane


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Polyurethanes and the circular economy: we make it happen

Did you know that the polyurethane present in your car, your mattress and Circular economyyour appliances can be recycled? There are in fact a large number of possibilities for dealing with polyurethanes that have reached their end-of-life. They can be recycled mechanically or chemically, and can also be submitted to feedstock recycling, which turns them into building blocks for other applications, or recovered, thus providing energy for other activities. In fact, even though recycling is the most well-known option for a number of daily products used by Europeans, it is not always the most environmentally-friendly option: in the case of polyurethane, recycling can require a great deal of energy, and it is sometimes most sensible to recover its energetic value through combustion, what we call energy recovery. In the EU, this is achieved through clean and careful incineration, during which pollutants are filtered out and energy is produced as a result of the combustion process.

Whatever the path chosen one thing is certain: producers and users of polyurethane are engaged to ensure that polyurethane is reinvested in the economy without burdening the environment. This week we’ll be participating at the EU Green Week, presenting the performance of polyurethane in a green and circular economy. Come visit our stand! Let us know if you are coming in the comments or on Twitter!

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European Commission DG Energy public consultation on energy efficiency now closed!

Did you submit your contribution? The public consultation on ‘Progress towards the 2020 energy efficiency objective and a 2030 energy efficiency policy framework’ closed on Monday, 28 April.

ISOPA looks forward to the review and hopes its comments will be taken on-board – there is a large untapped potential to save energy usage for buildings, and ISOPA supports measures that would stimulate the tapping of that potential. By introducing a specific savings target for buildings, energy consumption in existing buildings can be reduced by 80% by 2050 – objectives should be framed by clear guidelines to stimulate the energy-efficient refurbishment given a staged and deep renovation is both possible and cost-effective.

For those unfamiliar with the process, public consultations are launched by the European Commission to gather the views of external stakeholders, ranging from the general public to private and public organisations to industry, on a particular issue (in this case energy efficiency). Once the consultation closes, the Commission collates all contributions, processes the results and produces a consolidated report which together with the original contributions are subsequently published online; this is followed by a public conference where the Commission invites stakeholders to provide further input. The results of both the consultation and conference are then used to feed into the Commission’s proposal.

With regards to energy efficiency, replies submitted to the consultation will provide important input to the review of progress towards the 2020 energy efficiency target. The resulting product is expected to be a communication published in Summer 2014 (at the earliest).

Did you participate? Let us know what you told the Commission and commenting on our blog below or respond to us on Twitter!

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Polyurethane and Innovation: Time for a prize?

There is a very interesting event coming in September in Dallas, Texas: the Polyurethane Innovation Award. This is a great opportunity to shed the light on polyurethane and its amazing uses in industry and our daily lives!

Most of us use polyurethane daily, without even noticing it. For example, did you know that polyurethane was present in your mattress, in your couch and in the seats of your car? Its foam texture makes them comfortable, while its flexibility allows designers to express their creativity. It is light and durable, and can be worked in a wide variety of shapes and firmness. No wonder it has become a favourite materials for those daily uses!

This explains why polyurethane is such a great ally of innovation. Did you know, for example, that your holiday surfboard would probably still be made of wood if it weren’t for polyurethane? Hobie Alter passed away last month, but he was the one to thank for this innovative and unexpected use of polyurethane: he made surf boards lighter, easier and quicker to produce!

Surf Boards

If such a prize had existed when he came up with this idea, Hobie Alter would probably have won it! At ISOPA, we’re thinking it would not be such a bad idea to create such a prize in Europe. It would be an opportunity for all actors in the industry to gather and share on their process and innovative thinking, and a great window to Europeans to see how polyurethane is involved in so many aspects of their daily lives. What do you think? Would you participate? Share your thoughts in the comments and on Twitter!


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TTIP: An opportunity for the EU and the US to go forward on the fight against climate change

This week, Barack Obama will be in Europe for the EU-US Summit. This is a great opportunity for Europe and the United States to strengthen their relationship. It is also an opportunity for industry to show its engagement on global issues that affect both sides of the Atlantic.

This Summit follows the negotiations on climate which took place in Bonn last week. Both the US and the EU have a strong responsibility remain transparent and ensure that international action goes forward on this urgent matter. Out of these discussions, it is interesting to note that they considered the important mitigation potential of energy efficiency. This potential is visible in a wide range of sectors, such as buildings, transport, or appliances.

Polyurethane is involved in all those sectors and helps reduce their environmental footprint. In buildings, polyurethane contributes to efficient and lasting insulation, reducing CO2 emissions and energy consumption. In transport, polyurethanes help lighten the weight of vehicles, thus reducing the amount of fuel need to power them. Polyurethanes are also used in domestic appliances, for example as insulator in refrigerators and freezers.

This Summit will be crucial in the negotiations between Europe and the US on a major trade agreement, the transatlantic trade and investment partnership, or TTIP. The presence of the American president in the capital of Europe is a strong signal of the willingness of both parties to go forward in this cooperation, which will benefit Europeans and Americans alike.

TTIP is an opportunity for jobs and growth on both sides of the Atlantic, and ISOPA looks forward to a transparent process and agreement that tackles climate change, creates jobs and growth, and supports innovation and competitiveness without deteriorating high European safety standards.

To learn more about what we do to help fight climate change and enhance competitiveness, have a look at our website.

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Are EU States forgetting about energy efficiency?

EurActiv published an article exposing that Member States are not committed enough to achieve their energy efficiency target, particularly in buildings. If this is true, it is a worrying trend.

Energy efficiency means that we can achieve more with less: more heating for buildings with less energy consumed and less greenhouse gas emitted, for example. It is good for the environment, good for the energy bills of Europeans, and good for the economy because these renovating and insulating activities create jobs. The European Union has already adopted the Energy Efficiency Directive, which Member States are now in charge of implementing. So why don’t we move forward?

Renovating residential buildings has been estimated to have a cost-effective savings potential of 61% by 2030. Cutting your energy bill by more than half for years in exchange for insulating your house once, this cannot be such a bad deal? Energy consumption decreases by up to 90% if you opt for a passive house: we completed a passive house in Evere (Belgium) at the end of 2013, and it can be heated with the energy of a single iron. At ISOPA, we believe that energy efficiency is not only necessary to help reduce emissions and fight climate change, it is also common sense because it is good for Europeans and good for our economies.

To achieve this, there should be binding targets for buildings at milestone dates such as 2020 and 2030: the current EU objectives of reducing by 20% both energy consumption and CO2 emissions can be largely met as far as the building sector is concerned. With the existing insulation technologies, including polyurethanes, they could even be easily exceeded.

It is time for action. ISOPA, a major actor on behalf of the polyurethanes industry, is engaged for a strong and resolute action in fighting climate change (see our engagement in favour of sustainable development). European Institutions will go through major changes in 2014, and we hope that the next Members of Parliament and Commissioners will put all the energy required in achieving swift progress towards an energy efficient Europe, and give a new dynamic to Member States’ actions.

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New EU guide: The EU sends a signal in favour of energy-efficient buildings

How to use EU Cohesion policy funding to finance the energy renovation of buildings? This is the question answered by the European Commission in a useful and very detailed technical guidance released this week.

Europe has set clear targets for tackling the energy consumption of European buildings: by 2020, all new EU buildings should be nearly zero-energy consumption buildings. Cohesion policy funds will play a major role in achieving this target, allocating a minimum of €23bn to sustainable energy over the 2014-2020 period.

Even though it is mostly addressed to Cohesion policy managing authorities, this guide will be very useful to anyone – company or household – attempting to understand the fundings available for buildings’ energy efficiency, as it provides a clear and practical overview of the (numerous) steps involved and of the various financing options available.

It is a clear sign that the EU is not only committed to achieving its 2020 target, but also that it intends to make the processes and EU tools available and clear to all Europeans. And polyurethanes clearly have a role to play in helping Europeans and industries to become more energy-efficient and more competitive: one of the most important application of polyurethane in buildings is house insulation (see our example of the polyurethane passive house). Either utilising the material in new construction projects or when renovating your home, polyurethanes can help you reduce your energy consumption by up to 40%!

For a quick overview of the fundings available, see the diagram below:

EU guide EE buildings


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Can Europe deliver clean air?

Did you know Europeans spend 90% of their time indoors? This was just one of many figures presented by the European Commission at this year’s annual Green Week. The event, organised by DG Environment and DG Interpretation, invited participants to “shoot the breeze” with policy makers, as this year’s theme of “Cleaner Air for All” invited discussion on how to help shape the future of EU air policy.

Of particular interest, one session on indoor air quality, the only session of Green Week dedicated specifically to this issue, emphasized that clean indoor air, thanks to ventilation and filtration systems, brings real and measureable benefits to health and productivity in the home and the workplace, while also guaranteeing higher energy efficiency. Ventilation as a key solution to the issue is something we agree with, and that’s why when building our very own Passive House, we have ensured the absolute highest standards of ventilation and even have a successful blower door test to prove it.

At the session, “Only one air: better indoor air for better health”, the panel discussed the main factors affecting indoor air quality and associated health impacts. The negative impacts of poor indoor air quality were also highlighted as an inequity issue, as it is those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds who are disproportionately impacted. The poorest communities tend to be found in the vicinity of industrial areas and inner cities, and are more susceptible to poor air quality, dampness in indoor air, and substandard indoor heating appliances.

Timing of the event was fitting, as the Commission is currently reviewing its air policies and aims to deliver a strategy later in the year. When all is said and done at the end of the day, however, it is actions that speak louder than words. Yes, in the spirit of Green Week participants were welcomed with canvas laptop bags and booklets printed on process chlorine free recycled paper (PCF), but the real test will be the deliverance of the EU policy on air. Can the Commission deliver? Time will tell!

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STAY COOL THIS SUMMER: Top tips to insulate your house

The warmth and sunshine of the summer months are upon us and thus we bring you top tips of how to insulate your house.

Taking our Polyurethane Passive House as example, building a new home from scratch to accommodate all insulation and passive house concepts, you can achieve up to 90% less energy than a common house today. But you can make a difference in your own home, as renovating existing homes can lead to energy consumption cuts of up to 40%!

What’s that I hear you ask? Why talk about insulation during the summer months? This is a common misconception: insulation is important not only to in winter to keep warm, but also in summer to stay cool! So check out our top tips below:

  • Insulate your loft: Millimetres of insulation can make all the difference! If you’ve ever been up to your attic in the summer, you know how hot it can get! In some cases, it can reach up to 60 degrees Celsius, or even higher, and all this heat will radiate down into your home! By improving your attic insulation, you block the incoming heat and stay cooler in the summer.
  • It’s also important to keep your home air tight, so inject polyurethane insulation foam into wall cavities from the outside. If your house has solid walls, insulate them from the inside with thermal boards or make a cavity with battens and plasterboard.
  • If you don’t have double glazed windows, try polyurethane panels that create a seal around the window frame, as air leaks and unprotected windows are an important factor in keeping cool.
  • During the hottest part of the day, a window can absorb 10 times as much heat as the same area of an insulated wall. Therefore, thick curtains or blinds are great as they help resist heat entering through the windows.
  • Get an eco-flap letter plate on the back of your letterbox to stop unwanted draughts.
  • A chimney balloon will stop cool air from being sucked out of the room.

These insulating tips promise lower energy bills, be it from heating in the winter or air-conditioning in the summer, so it’s worth the investment! Want some more good news? Many countries offer some forms of subsidies to do this work on your house, making it even easier! Want to read more about Passive House ideas? Then check out more great blogs here!

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