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“Just dare to get started!”

You don´t need to be an expert to get started, but you need to get started to become an expert, is Kristoffer Karlström´s advice to small companies who haven´t begun their systematic chemical work. 

“Just dare to get started”, Kristoffer Karlström, environment manager, says when describing how G A Lindberg helps their customers in their substitution work. The company delivers products for industrial gluing, lubrication and dosage. 

– The larger companies we meet have control over their chemicals, and they have IT based chemical management systems to keep track of their chemical products. That gives them a good overview of their products, and the requirements from legislation, such as REACH, RoHS etc. The smaller companies, on the other hand, may not have the same possibilities. At most, there are files with safety data sheets, that are seldomly looked upon, Kristoffer Karlström recounts. 
 
In order to help the smaller customer (often a supplier to a larger company) to obtain better control of their chemicals, GA Lindberg offers them support, Kristoffer Karlström says.  

A simple data sheet takes you well on the way 

The Excel sheet the customers are offered contains a few columns with headings corresponding to the headings in the safety data sheets that follow chemical products upon purchase. It takes the basis in the function of the product and contains a column where the choice of product should be motivated. This is a simple, but efficient, method to keep track of the company´s chemicals without a chemical management system. 

– Providing this support is a matter of course for us. A part of our competence as a supplier is to help our customers. The customer can add columns in the data sheet in order to obtain even more control, says Kristoffer Karlström, who thinks chemical substitution work should be a natural part of every company´s daily business.

– The responsibility of every company to obey the substitution principle is a basic part of the Environmental Code. This means that if it is possible to make something from a less hazardous product, then you are obliged to do that. Furthermore, the Environmental Code says that companies should economize raw material and energy, and that they should minimize the presence of hazardous substances in materials and products, Kristoffer Karlström says. 

Start by identifying the products in your business 

When talking about substitution, Kristoffer refers to a four-step staircase. The first step is to identify the chemical you are already using. This is essential in order to decide whether they can be replaced by better alternatives. 

The second step can be a bottleneck 

– It is often in the second step people tend to get stuck. When the companies contact their regular suppliers, they are in many cases offered the same type of products that they are already using, Kristoffer Karlström says. 
 
It can therefore be difficult to getting to step 3: assessment of alternatives – but it can be done. In many cases it has been possible to simply remove hazardous substances without reducing performance. One example is lead, that was previously used for fusing in electronics, but has now been banned.  Nowadays it is possible to replace fusing by an adhesive containing silver, that has the same function. 

The last step, an important part of product development 

The fourth, and last, step in the staircase is the development of new alternatives, Kristoffer points out. 

– I believe it is important to consider substitution as a part of product development. It is easier to substitute hazardous components in a new product than in an existing one. The choice of materials is important to begin with. Perhaps the new materials and components can be used also in the existing products, once new versions will be developed? In many cases you need to be creative and dare to think completely differently when it comes to substituting hazardous substances with better alternatives. 

Kristoffer´s substitution tips 

1. You don´t need to be an expert to get started, but you need to get started to become an expert 

2. Prepare a list of the chemical substances your company is handling. Use the same headings as in the safety data sheets.  

3. Involve the whole company. For example, the product development team may suggest product or process development that makes it possible to remove or replace hazardous substances. 

4. Involve your suppliers. They often have unique competence regarding their own products, as well as regarding the trade.  

Anna Jacobs

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Anna Jacobs

Centrumledare för substitutionscentrum

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