Make the most of Christmas with Polyurethanes!

Do you know how much polyurethanes are an ally in helping you prepare a great Christmas celebration? Although the association between the two might not seem obvious at first, Christmas and polyurethanes truly are linked.

First things first, the dinner!

Polyurethanes can help to a less stressful Christmas meal preparation. Thanks to the Polyurethanes insulating foam of your fridge and refrigerating appliances, the cold food you buy days or even weeks in advance remains always fresh until the time finally comes to serve it. This can help spare you from the last-minute rush to the grocery store.

Of course, there would be no Christmas without the Christmas tree.

Christmas trees made from Polyurethanes can also help you in getting the Christmas spirit going. Artificial Christmas trees are indeed quite convenient since they can save you from the burdening task of cleaning up tree needles at the end of the season. In addition, they are sustainable alternatives since they are durable and can be reused many following years.

As for the decorations you will put on this tree, have you ever thought of making them yourselves? It is a fun activity for the young and less young, and quite a nice way to personalize your Christmas tree! If you would like to see how to make your very own polyurethane-coated ornaments which will last for the years to come, have a look at our previous blog post for inspiration.

On  your journey…

Many of us also need to drive away for Christmas, enjoying these festive times to catch up with families and friends. Then again, polyurethanes are an essential part of your journey! No matter how cold it is outside as long as your car is cozy and warm. Did you know that polyurethane is one of the materials that make your car trip more comfortable? Thanks to its insulating properties, it helps prevent external noise from covering the Christmas carols on the radio. It is also contained in your car seats to make them more comfortable throughout the journey.

… And on Christmas morning

Time to open the presents! Your new watch, your son’s new football ball, the latest fashionable clothes, your ski equipment for the coming snow trip… Many of these items would not be so good without polyurethanes making them more performant, nicer-looking, comfortable or resistant.

On the next day, polyurethane also helps you enjoy a comfortable rest. The mattress or the sofa on which you will be enjoying a well-deserved rest and some chocolates, are made so addictively comfortable thanks to the polyurethane foam composing them and giving them their flexibility and comfort.

Enjoy it all then! On behalf of the ISOPA team, we wish you a very Merry Christmas!


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Eco-innovation and competitiveness

On 1 and 2 December took place the 7th European Forum on Eco-innovation in Lyon, France. The Forum has been a great opportunity for stakeholders both from the public and private sector to come together and discuss the opportunities and challenges of a Europe transitioning to a green and sustainable economy.

The Forum came amid a crescendo of reactions following the European Commission President’s announcement of a €315 billion investment plan to kick-start Europe’s economy. Commenting on the plan Mr Juncker underlined that “if Europe invests more, Europe will be more prosperous and create more jobs – it’s as simple as that.” The objective is clear: innovation, jobs, growth. The polyurethanes industry, as a key actor of the European economy, supports these ambitions.

Is the European Commission committed to boosting economic growth through innovation?

Juncker’s political guidelines for the new Commission mentioned jobs and growth as keys to taking Europe out of the crisis. He made a symbolic gesture by making Jyrki Katainen Vice-President responsible for assessing all actions of the Commission on whether they “help create the conditions for a sustainable recovery in growth and job creation in Europe.”

In a globalised market, growth and jobs clearly go hand in hand with innovation in order for Europe to maintain its competitive edge. And this begins by looking for efficiencies and opportunities in what is already in the pipelines: in December, the Commission will present its 2015 Work programme, in which it is expected to withdraw a number of proposals currently under consideration… including possibly the proposal on waste and the circular economy! In view of this, it is yet unclear how committed the Commission will be to support eco-innovation in Europe.

What’s the green economy’s role in promoting job creation?

Talking about the 7th Environmental Action Programme at the European Environment Bureau conference “Europe at the Crossroads”, the new Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella highlighted:

Vella quote

The Polyurethane industry is committed to innovation and competitiveness: it is one of the most forward-looking in terms of developing recycling and energy recovery solutions for its products, showing that green innovation and job creation can go hand in hand.

Polyurethanes use less than 0.1% of oil consumed worldwide and can save up to 100 times more. The polyurethane industry heavily invests in research to continuously improve the sustainability of its product and look for renewable and bio-based raw materials.

By making a better use of resources, polyurethane greatly contributes to reducing waste and increasing energy efficiency, not only throughout the value chains for various applications, but also throughout the whole European economy. Thanks to its wide range of applications, it helps support green product choices throughout Europe, and supports more than one million jobs across Europe.

If you would like to know more about how the polyurethane industry constantly innovates for a competitive Europe, have a look on our website.

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Building renovation in Europe: what’s next?

Last month in the European Parliament, the new Regional Policy Commissioner Corina Crețu confirmed that the Commission was committed to increase investment in energy efficiency in buildings. This is good news for Europe! Today, buildings consume 40% of Europe’s primary energy and create more than one third of greenhouse gas emissions. We therefore clearly need to reduce the amount of energy wasted by buildings, many of which are not properly insulated. Energy efficiency is Europe’s biggest energy resource but the question is how do we harness it?

How ambitious is the new Commission?

On Cretu24 October 2014, the European Council reached an agreement on the 2030 Climate and Energy Framework. While Member States have presented the agreement as the best political outcome they could reach, many voices have criticised their lack of ambition. In particular, the text contains a 27% target for improving energy efficiency by 2030 … but the target is non-binding! The impact on building renovation is therefore yet to be seen.

Meanwhile, Members of the European Parliament are putting pressure on the Commission to strengthen the existing regulatory framework. This really begs the question as to whether both the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) and the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) are really strong enough to allow Europe to stop wasting energy?

JunckerJean-Claude Juncker, the head of the new Commission, has made it clear that he will focus his mandate on ensuring the correct implementation of existing legislation rather than putting forward new proposals. One should therefore hope and expect a full implementation of the current EED and EPBD at national level. It’s good news as many Member States are still lagging behind. Still, the question remains: just how long will the Commission be able to resist Parliament’s call for a more ambitious framework altogether? The months to come should tell us more.

Polyurethane, a key ally in building renovation

Implementing (and possibly improving) the current legislative and regulatory framework is all the more important given that the technology exists to achieve ambitious targets. Polyurethanes are part of the solution: rigid foams made of polyurethane are great insulators. Concretely, this means reducing fuel costs to heat buildings preserving energy. Did you know that renovating buildings could reduce Europe’s energy needs by 30%? Imagine the change this would bring to your monthly energy bill!

Would you like to know more about polyurethanes and energy savings in buildings? Have a look at our video!

In the meantime, connect with us on Twitter and tell us your story. Use the #PUrenovation and tell us how you save energy in your building!

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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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