Environmental Attributes of 3M™ Envision™ Products
At 3M, we evaluate many facets of the materials we use, allowing us to continuously improve the environmental, health, and safety implications of what we make. So, when 3M develops a new product, we ask several important questions before we begin:
How can we reduce the product's impact on the environment?
How will we distribute the product?
And how will the product ultimately be disposed of?
3M Commercial Graphics is changing the graphics world—again—with the new 3M™ Envision™ line. These new graphic materials from 3M offer leading-edge technology, best-in-class performance and an edge on sustainability.
This information addresses the most common questions we receive from our customers about the meaning of sustainability and 3M products.
"Chemicals of concern" can be chemicals widely used in the manufacturing of many products. They can be regulated or not, but are typically believed to pose a potential health or environmental concern.
Halogens, like fluorine, chlorine, bromine and iodine, have traditionally been used as the foundation of plastics. For example, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) films are typically very stable, durable and long lasting. These are all highly desirable attributes for long-term graphic materials. As a point of reference, halogens are also found in flame retardants, like PBDE.
The issue with halogenated plastics occurs during disposal. If the material is incinerated, the halogen is freed from the plastic structure. During the incineration process, halogens, which are highly reactive, react with any available water (a byproduct of incineration) to form very strong acids, like HCl and HF. To prevent these byproducts from going into the atmosphere, the incineration stack must have special scrubbers that limit halogen release and also require certain chemicals to neutralize the material. These chemicals then become hazardous waste. Adding to the issues, the incineration of halogenated materials can be costly.
Trade-offs between a more environmentally friendly product and performance are becoming a thing of the past for 3M graphics customers. The new 3M™ Envision™ Print Wrap Film 480Cv3 and 3M™ Envision™ Gloss Wrap Overlaminate 8548G were designed to exclude certain chemicals of concern, without sacrificing high performance. In fact, these new products, which are non-PVC and do not contain any added chlorine or other halogens, exceed most current high performance characteristics.
So, just what does "no added chlorine or other halogens" really mean? It means that 3M has found a way to develop these products without intentionally adding certain chemicals of concern to them. It is important to understand, though, that trace amounts of certain chemicals may be found in the raw materials we use in amounts so miniscule they do not affect the safe use or disposal. Advances in analytical testing have enabled us to test materials at the part per million (ppm) and trillion (ppt) level. Testing at this level discovers trace amounts of chemicals that were never intentionally added to the product.
The Concern about Phthalates
You'll be glad to know that 3M's Envision Wrap Films are phthalate-free. Dialkyl ortho-phthalates, or just phthalates for short, are a family of chemicals traditionally used in the PVC industry as plasticizers to make films more flexible. This family of chemicals--especially DBP, BBP, DEHP, DINP, DNOP, and DIDP--is becoming more regulated globally due to potential health concerns associated with them. Although 3M graphic materials are intended for commercial and industrial markets, it is interesting to note that in the US, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) regulates these phthalates in children's products. In the EU (European Union), several phthalates are listed as REACH Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs).
We again stress that as with all chemicals, analytical testing may be able to show that trace amounts of phthalates are present. Any incidental, trace phthalates in our Envision Wrap Films would be below 100ppm. This is significantly lower than the regulated threshold of 0.1% or 1000ppm for these chemicals per CPSIA and REACH SVHCs.
Cast vinyl gets its name from the manufacturing process used to make these films. This process uses solvents, some of which are known to have environmental and health concerns. The new Envision Wrap Films are a high-performance non-PVC polymer, not a cast vinyl. During the 3M manufacturing process, we use 60% less solvent making film 480Cv3 and overlaminate 8548G when compared to the same amount of film IJ180Cv3* and overlaminate 8518* produced in the US. By decreasing our solvent usage, we are reducing the exposure to these chemicals by the workers at our manufacturing facility.
The 2002 US Farm Bill describes biobased products as commercial or industrial products (other than food or feed) that are composed in whole, or in significant part, of biological products, renewable agricultural materials (including plant, animal, and marine materials), or forestry materials.
Many chemicals, including plastics, are primarily made from carbon. Although carbon is a very abundant element, graphic films are traditionally based on carbon from fossil fuels, like petroleum. By switching to using bio-based materials, the carbon is from a renewable resource rather than petroleum. Using ASTM D6866, you can date the carbon to determine what percentage of the material is bio-based versus petroleum-based. Both the Envision Wrap Films 480Cv3 and overlaminate 8548G, without the product liner, contain 10% or greater bio-based materials by weight, another step forward on our product sustainability journey.
*3M™ Controltac™ Graphic Film with Comply™ v3 Adhesive IJ180Cv3-10 and 3M™ Scotchcal™ Gloss Overlaminate 8518
The European Digital Press Association, an independent group with members in 23 European countries, annually recognizes the best in innovative technology within the digital printing market at the FESPA London tradeshow. In 2013, 3M Envision Print Wrap Film 480Cv3 was recognized as the “Best Environmental Substrate," only a few months after its European Launch. In its nomination of the product, the EDP called out several distinguishing factors of the wrap film, noting it was “a breakthrough in the market.” The Association also highlighted the fact that there is no price barrier to adoption of the film, and that its coverage by the 3M™ MCS™ Warranty is seen as valuable by brand owners.
"This award supports 3M’s reputation as the innovation leader in our industry – a leader who consistently brings new solutions to the market that enable our customers and the industry to grow," said Michael R. Kesti, Ph.D, Technical Director, 3M Commercial Graphics. "The best-in-class performance (conformability, durability and removability) of the new 3M Envision Print Wrap Films in a non-PVC format is a significant technology breakthrough, but more importantly, enables new applications and offers brand owners a more sustainable option for their graphic needs."