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Sustainability in the paint and varnish industry is based on investments in R&D

Europe's aspirations to be the leader of "green" changes do not bypass any industry, including manufacturers of paints and varnishes. In addition, it was the companies from this sector that faced the challenge of meeting a number of regulations imposed by the provisions of European Union law, including on the use of biocidal substances. An essential asset in the process of change is its own research and development capital, which allows companies to be one step ahead of the competition. Śnieżka SA also focuses on microbiology, which conducts research in its own laboratory.

The paint and varnish industry in Poland and across Europe adapts to the requirements of EU legislation, which requires, i.a. significant reduction of the amount of biocidal substances in products or withdrawal from some of the biocides used so far. The following regulations have had the greatest impact on the changes in question in recent years: Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2020/182 and Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2018/1480. It is also known that in the future the number of such regulations will be on the increase.

In addition to the care to live up to the current requirements of the legislators, an increase in market requirements is observed. Sustainable development of manufacturers is becoming an increasingly crucial value, which is associated with growing expectations regarding appropriate certification and compliance with environmental and safety standards. The goal is clear – the products are to have an even smaller impact on the environment.

These trends require appropriate preparation on the part of manufacturers of paint products or construction chemicals. This involves adapting to the changes already taking place, as well as anticipating those that are yet to come. Flexibility in quality assurance and research and development processes is key here. In recent years, the scientific base in this respect has been expanded by the Śnieżka listed company.

We have built a team of experts specializing in this field. Thanks to the proprietary methods developed on site, we have increased the scope of research on the paints, varnishes and putties we produce. On the one hand, we are one step ahead of EU regulations, which gradually limit the permissible amount of biocidal substances in products. On the other hand, we respond to the customers’ needs who expect safe products, but with still long expiry dates.

Małgorzata Grykiel Quality Assurance Director at FFiL Śnieżka SA.

Such activities, however, are not a standard in the construction chemicals industry – having your own microbiological laboratory is not a requirement, but an expression of the manufacturer’s additional care for the final product. Biocides cannot be completely eliminated. Yet their number can be minimized and Śnieżka is concentrating on this very aspect.

The lab has become part of the sustainable development of the supply chain

Śnieżka’s investments turned out to be successful not only because of the continuous and precise quality control. The activities of the Polish manufacturer translated into an improvement in the quality of raw materials ordered from suppliers from several countries. The development of research methodologies to control the microbiological quality of raw materials for each delivered batch is currently Śnieżka’s strong competitive advantage. It also goes in line with the trend of sustainable development, which the whole world is currently moving towards and which is supported by the European Union with a package of regulations.

State-of-the-art research facilities and constant quality monitoring have allowed us to become a source of knowledge for others in the field of microbiology and protection of raw materials, semi-finished and finished products. Thanks to the methods we have developed, we also support the suppliers of raw materials that we use in our production processes. We have developed systems of continuous involvement in microbiological purity testing also at their premises. Through our know-how, we assist them to accommodate to the requirements and expectations we set in this area.

Nina Trojan microbiology manager at FFiL Śnieżka SA.

Activities in the area of sustainable development concern the scope directly related to the organization, as well as indirectly, e.g. the supply chain. Changes in this area represent a challenge for many enterprises, as they require taking the initiative to external companies, i.e. suppliers Śnieżka, however, managed to achieve this owing to investments in its own laboratory.

In many cases, we are a pioneer in our industry when it comes to the degree of accuracy of analysis. This helped us, together with our suppliers, to develop better quality parameters of the raw materials we acquire. This is key since thanks to this we can respond to the market’s needs, including international DIY chains. Our products must also be properly labelled and comply with the declaration that they contain the amount of biocides permitted in the EU.

Małgorzata Grykiel Quality Assurance Director at FFiL Śnieżka SA.

Specialized methods contributing to good quality

Since EU legislation restricts more and more the use of biocides in products, manufacturers face the issue of microbiological purity of products on a large scale. Thus, it is necessary to have methods that will allow to detect possible contamination caused by bacteria, fungi or moulds. Their appearance in the product leads to a change in its functional properties, and consequently shortens its shelf life.

Our proprietary methods contributed to the identification of potential sources of contamination that could appear in the product. We pay attention to every aspect - from supervision of the cleanliness of production lines, where swabs are taken, to the microbiological purity of individual elements, to the identification of possible sources of contamination in raw materials or on packaging.

Nina Trojan microbiology manager at FFiL Śnieżka SA.

The development of a research methodology for the effective assessment of microbiological contamination in loose materials is considered to be a great achievement by the lab workers.  Long-term work allowed to observe how this purity is affected by, inter alia, seasonality of supplies or air humidity. Everyone was taken aback by the results, including the suppliers. This initiated work on increasing and unifying the quality of this group of raw materials.

The permissible amounts of active substances derived from biocides that may be contained in paints and varnishes are constantly being lowered, which is why we are working on adapting our formulations to these restrictions on a regular basis. We also strive to verify the possibility of introducing and using alternative methods of protection against the development of microorganisms.

Nina Trojan microbiology manager at FFiL Śnieżka SA.

Resistance to the occurrence of contamination of products in the “wet” state is subject to verification, but also their resistance to the appearance of microorganisms after drying, i.e. on the so-called “dry coating”. Modern research equipment allows for the detection of even trace microbiological contamination, and the laboratory facilities enable advanced tests of paints, varnishes and putties, improving their quality.

Microbiologists for the sake of safety

Śnieżka’s laboratory conducts extensive microbiological tests for the needs of its companies from EU countries: Poland and Hungary, as well as from Ukraine. In order to be able to perform this function, it had to meet restrictive standards. It has individual air circulation and is under constant temperature and humidity control. It is equipped with high-quality equipment, including sterilizing UV lamps, laminar chambers for sterile work and incubators for growing microorganisms. In addition to testing finished products, such as paints, varnishes and components of thermal insulation systems, the laboratory also carries out separate tests on: liquid and loose raw materials, water and packaging.

The product safety – in addition to their functional and application properties – is an aspect that is increasingly paid attention to by end users of paints, varnishes and putties.

Although, unlike some industries, we are not obliged to have our own microbiology laboratory, this investment is of key importance to us. The knowledge we gain on a daily basis helps us to build not only a competitive advantage, but is also an important step towards caring for the natural environment and sustainable development.

Małgorzata Grykiel Quality Assurance Director at FFiL Śnieżka SA.