First, it’s worth addressing what remains a highly debated topic not only in the flooring adhesive industry but in other industries as well: What exactly constitutes the definition of “green”?
Just about everyone has their own definition as to what green actually means or refers to, ranging from meeting domestic regulatory compliance standards associated with established volatile organic compound (VOC) limits, to the utilization of raw materials containing appreciable amounts of recycled or renewable content, to providing carbon-footprint data and “cradle-to-grave” life cycle analysis or assessments on adhesive products.
All of these are understandably relevant examples, both individually and collectively.
One of the more common misconceptions regarding green flooring adhesives is that quality must be or is sacrificed in order to obtain the eco-friendly advantage of a product. This myth has been quickly dispelled as some of the most popular and often-used flooring adhesive offerings readily meet the widespread liberal and interchangeable definition of being green. In fact, many of these products have been in existence for several years, becoming popular prior to the green movement that started gaining traction around the turn of the century.
Several of these early product introductions were developed as a result of the aforementioned VOC emission compliance changes adopted in the mid-to-late 1990s, with some reporting levels near or at zero. More recent developments have focused on minimizing and/or eliminating various chemical compounds, or incorporation of recycled or renewable raw materials.
Consumers, distributors, contractors and installers should also be aware that the likelihood of continued regulatory pressure to reduce reportable emissions and minimize the use of identified chemicals of concern is very high. As a result, the trend toward developing and bringing more and more green adhesive options in the market is likely to continue gathering momentum.
Another issue surrounding green adhesives centers on understanding the factors driving the availability of green adhesives in the marketplace. There is no question that protection, preservation, and conservation of the outdoor environment itself continues to be an extremely important issue on varied personal, professional, and political fronts, especially during a presidential election year.
There is also another concern: indoor air quality. According to the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI), people spend in excess of 90 percent of their time indoors. This is essential data for ensuring the air quality generated and maintained indoors promotes healthy conditions for homeowners and employees; it has also sharpened the focus on flooring adhesive installation products and how they impact this environment. And while flooring adhesives represent a very small percentage of the overall material used in residential dwellings or commercial buildings, there have been various cases of a phenomenon classically referred to as “sick-building syndrome” reported where the adhesive selection has negatively contributed to this condition.
Various agencies now offer compliance-testing programs to certify adhesives as meeting stringent testing requirements for VOC emissions directly attributable to this issue. Several examples include, but are not limited to, the CRI (Green Label Plus) the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GREENGUARD), Scientific Certification Systems (Indoor Advantage Gold), and the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (FloorScore.)
One final misconception: from somewhere came the notion that only select technologies offer the chemistry needed and/or required to produce green, eco-friendly flooring adhesive products. Fortunately, this is not the case. Advances in raw material technology for waterborne, solvent-borne, and even reactive systems (both single and dual component) currently allow for green, eco-friendly adhesive products for all flooring types. Further innovation in next-generation technology platforms is ongoing and is anticipated to only strengthen the trend of going green.
When you get right down to it, the goal for adhesive manufacturers is to develop, produce and offer high-quality solutions that are as clean, environmentally friendly and sustainable as possible without sacrificing application or performance properties. As is already known and well understood in the flooring industry, this is not only possible, it’s here now, today, with further enhancements expected in the not-so-distant future.
Steve Lontchar is Vice-President – Technology, DriTac Flooring Products, LLC.