Norway launches push for cleaner paints

Product-oriented voluntary initiative aims to involve stakeholders in devising solutions

The Norwegian government has devised what it describes as "a totally new strategy" to reduce pollution caused by paints, lacquers and shellac. The aim of its "product-oriented environmental initiative" is to persuade stakeholders, including manufacturers, dealers, consumers, NGOs, public authorities and scientists, to cooperate in making the industry more environmentally friendly with minimal use of legislation.

"Products that are sold freely in the European market contain thousands of hazardous chemicals," environment minister Guro Fjellanger said as the various parties prepared for an inaugural seminar in Oslo this week. "It is not possible to fine tune regulations for this market." While the most hazardous products would still be subject to tax penalties or banned outright, the burden of responsibility would be on industry to take voluntary action.

The initiative is part of a wide-ranging "action plan" to reduce or eliminate the use of hazardous chemicals announced during the summer (ENDS Daily 2 August) which represents, Ms Fjellanger added this week, "a new policy direction in its strong emphasis on information." She continued: "It is my ambition that Norway should be a leader in the fight against toxic chemicals at both national and international level."

In its earliest stages, the paint initiative will focus on "cradle to grave" product life-cycle analysis, on the argument that an environmental problem is not solved if it is merely "shoved along to another stage in the cycle". In any case, "paints and shellacs have a wide range of applications, and the products create environmental problems at every stage of the life cycle".

Even if many of these products can never be made truly environmentally friendly, at least "new products and new methods of use can be developed that impose less of an environmental burden than those in use today". The initiative is also intended to appeal to commercial self interest; for example, the race to find potentially profitable substitutes for marine paints containing tributyl tin (TBT) pending a probable global phase-out from 2003.

Norway currently uses over 50 million litres of paint and shellac annually, according to official estimates.

Follow Up:
Norwegian environment ministry, tel: +47 22 24 57 00.

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