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China to ban eco-hazards in polyurethane foam

By Li Yingqing and Hou Liqiang in Kunming | | Updated: 2017-04-24 10:47

China plans to completely eliminate the use of HCFCs, compounds composed of hydrogen, chlorine, fluorine and carbon atoms, by the end of 2025 in the polyurethane foam sector, according to the Foreign Economic Cooperation Office at Ministry of Environmental Protection.

The plan was announced in a meeting held on Friday in Kunming, Yunnan's provincial capital, to plan the phase-out. The session also featured a seminar on alternative technologies.

About 21 million metric tons of polyurethane was consumed globally in 2016. The number is expected to increase to 28.6 million in 2018, 40 percent of which will be consumed in China, the biggest producer and consumer of the products, according to Foreign Economic Cooperation Office.

The material is used in bedding, furniture, autos (mainly for car seats) and thermal insulation of buildings. As key material for PU production, 400,000 to 500,000 tons of the HCFC agents are used every year in the world.

Though polyurethane foam-making has been more and more environment-friendly, agents like chlorine and fluorine, which are harmful to the ozone layer and result in greenhouse gases, are still unavoidable.

HCFCs have been replacing CFC, compounds that contain atoms of chlorine, fluorine, and carbon, as refrigerants and aerosol propellants. CFCs are blamed for the depletion of ozone layer, and HCFCs are considered less harmful to the environment than CFCs. The widespread use of HCFCs, however, has become a major contributor to global warming.

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