Recent advances in both manufacturing processes and on-the-road performance of reflective sheeting have resulted in a win-win situation for the traffic safety industry: sheeting materials are made with far less environmental waste, and the finished product is brighter than ever before, leading to energy savings for government agencies.
3M has been working to reduce the amount of volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions and landfill waste in all its products. Compared to glass-beaded sheeting, 3M prismatic sheeting requires far less consumption of fossil fuels in the manufacturing process and produces dramatically less liquid solvent and paper-based waste. In total, the manufacturing process for 3M's prismatic sheetings reduces energy consumption by 77 percent, VOC emissions by 97 percent, and solid waste by 46 percent compared to encapsulated lens sheeting manufacturing processes.
Reduction in solvent waste
Beaded sheeting requires the use of solvent-based raw materials in multiple manufacturing steps. Prismatic production uses just one-fiftieth (1/50th) the amount of solvents that the beaded process requires. Think in rough terms of 2½ ounces versus one gallon. You can imagine the significant improvement in air quality produced by such a reduction.
Reduction in liner waste
Because of its numerous production phases, beaded product also requires large amounts of paper to carry it through multiple passes in coating machines. Nearly 100% of this paper - thousands of square yards per year - ends up as landfill waste. In contrast, 3M prismatic products produce virtually no paper waste.
Safety and energy savings
From the motorist's perspective, the transition to prismatic materials offers a safety benefit as well. Prismatic materials are more efficient reflectors of light and they provide better angularity performance, making them more suited to perform in the challenging sign positions required on today's roadways. Signs today must also perform for varying types of vehicles, driven by more a demographically diverse set of drivers on more complex roadway systems. Many state departments of transportation are confirming that the most efficient prismatic reflective sheeting allows them to eliminate guide sign lighting in many instances. The Illinois Department of Transportation has estimated that by switching to the highest efficiency reflective sheeting and Clearview font, they are able to eliminate guide sign lighting at an estimated annual savings of roughly $1 million.
3M Commended for Greenhouse Gas Success
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized 3M for impressive
As a Climate Leaders partner, 3M is committed to protect the climate
through an aggressive greenhouse gas management strategy. And now 3M
is recognized as a corporate environmental leader.
3M has reduced its total U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 60
percent, doubling its 2002 base-year commitment of a 30 percent
reduction by 2007. 3M achieved this goal in partnership with the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its Climate Leaders program.
For having reached and surpassed its goal in regard to greenhouse gas
emissions, 3M was recognized last month by the EPA as a leader in
addressing climate issues. Jean Sweeney, vice president, Environmental,
Health and Safety Operations, accepted the EPA honor in Chicago on
behalf of 3M and its employees.