Plastics can play a big role in a new sustainability standard for household refrigerators, according to an industry expert.
“There is no question plastics are covered in a lot of places in the standard,” said Wayne Morris, vice president of technical operations and standards for the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers in Washington. Morris is one of the main authors of the standard, which awards points in several areas as measured against best practice.
The new standard is based on a life-cycle approach for identifying environmental impacts in energy during use, materials, end-of-life, performance and manufacturing. It was developed with the assistance of the Ottawa, Ontario office of not-for-profit certification organization CSA Group, and UL Environment in Marietta, Ga.
According to the standard, companies earn points for sustainability achieved in the several areas.
Plastics are important in constructing refrigerators. Polyurethane foam, for example, is key to the appliance's energy efficiency. The choice of a polyurethane blowing agent also affects the appliance's rating. More points are awarded if the blowing agent has low contribution to greenhouse gases. Plastics are also widely used in interior components, where recycled content can earn extra points, Morris said by phone June 7, when AHAM announced the standards.
The use of recycled materials in the packaging is another area where refrigerator makers can gain recognition.
To earn high points, a refrigerator producer must keep track of materials that might be of environmental concern, Morris said. He gave the example of certain flame retardants — “a company should show progress on reducing these materials of concern,” he said. Flame retardants should meet the new stringent European standards, he said. Companies also are urged to account for the volume of greenhouse emissions they and their suppliers generate as part of the life-cycle analysis.
Firms also gain points from reducing the amount of materials used and the weight of their products, an area where lightweight plastics might play a role. Also, if the plastics are recyclable, the appliance may earn points in the category of end-of-life disposal.
The new sustainability standard is a mouthful: AHAM 7001-2012/CSA SPE-7001-12/UL 7001.