Meet Danielle Goossens, Global Product Stewardship Director
Meet the EarthWise Team is a series of inspirational and often untold stories about the people behind important solutions, technologies and products that make our lives better and safer every day.
The series presents some of the key scientists and business professionals who have contributed to the development, progress and implementation of the green chemistry products, processes and principles of Albemarle and the Earthwise brand.
Albemarle Corporation, headquartered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is a leading global developer, manufacturer, and marketer of highly-engineered specialty chemicals for consumer electronics, petroleum refining, utilities, packaging, construction, automotive/transportation, pharmaceuticals, crop protection, food-safety and custom chemistry services.
Earthwise™ is a new division of Albemarle Corporation. The brand represents a family of products that follows strict environmental-friendly standards, along with practicing green chemistry principles and include new green fire safety alternatives to existing fire safety solutions.
Albemarle is the global leader in flame retardants. Flame retardants or fire safety solutions that are critical ingredients in many consumer electronic products, as well as the interiors of automobiles and airplanes, save lives and protect property from fires.
A group of manufacturers of flame retardants launched an initiative to raise awareness of best practices in chemical handling processes among the companies that utilize these flame retardants. Let’s learn more about the Voluntary Emissions Control Action Programme (VECAP) from Danielle Goossens, Global Product Stewardship Director at Albemarle, who is based in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.
Danielle, tell us about your role at Albemarle and the VECAP program
I am Danielle Goossens and I direct health, safety and environmental issues for Albemarle in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, except for manufacturing plants. I make sure the company is in compliance with the regulations in all the countries we serve. I also manage product stewardship worldwide. Which means I advise customers, who are themselves manufacturers, on the best ways to handle the products they purchase from us and how to avoid any environmental releases.
I received my undergraduate and doctorate degrees from the Catholic University of Louvain (Belguim) in 1979. I have worked mainly in research at the University and at Belgian pharmaceutical companies. In 1992, I joined Ethyl (which later spun off its chemical businesses as Albemarle) as an analytical chemist. I then moved to the Customer Technical Service area and assumed my current role in 2008.
What exactly is VECAP? How does it affect consumers and businesses?
As a voluntary program that promotes best practices for the handling of flame retardant chemicals, VECAP has a rather pragmatic goal: to make sure the customers are using the product safely at every stage. Albemarle and other flame retardant producers together acted on their concerns to limit the possible ways that these chemical products might enter the environment during manufacturing processes. In 2004, the companies launched this pioneering program. It’s highly unusual that the industry developed VECAP on its own, because often government regulators impose these kinds of standards on industry.
The three companies who formed VECAP are Albemarle Corporation, Chemtura Corporation and ICL-IP. Together, they sell to more than 500 customers worldwide. In 2009, the members of VECAP surveyed more than 135 sites in Europe, and perhaps another 100 each in North America and the Asia/Pacific regions. The number continues to grow in 2010, of course. At each company, there are between three and eight professionals (engineers, scientists, technical and advocacy staff) involved in the efforts, as well as third-party independent consultants.
By adhering to the best practices advocated by VECAP in sensitive areas, the makers of the plastic products and components that use flame retardants will reduce the potential contamination of food, air, water and earth. Plus, they limit their own employees’ and, downstream, consumers’ exposure to chemicals.
Additionally, there is a certification component; Bureau Veritas is an independent auditor that will certify a company is VECAP compliant and a seal can be placed on their website and packaging. Albemarle’s Magnolia plant, which is the principal facility in the US that produces brominated flame retardants, has been certified.
Finally, it is important to note the methodology for the initiative is a model that has already been adopted for other products by several chemical companies and can be modified for use by manufacturers in other industries.
How do you work with customers to let them know about VECAP?
We conduct a survey in a face-to-face meeting with the customer who purchases our flame retardant solutions. We ask about certain practices and calculate the potential chemical emissions. We then share with them the best practices and perform a separate calculation for the emissions that would be produced by following these new procedures. In some cases, the difference is astonishing and customers are surprised to learn by how much they might lower their emissions and be eco-friendly to the earth and workplace, while making these simple changes.
For example, the area that can have the greatest impact on emission reductions is the handling and disposal of packaging. Albemarle delivers the flame retardant powder to the customer either in small paper bags or in polypropylene supersacs. The paper bag-type of package holds 25 kilograms. We determined that, in the process of emptying the package, there was a waste factor of 150 grams in each one.
In contrast, we suggest a 1,000 kilogram polypropylene bag, something that is 40 times larger, yet it has a remarkably lower waste factor: compare 500 grams remaining in the large bag to 6,000 grams for the many smaller ones. Customers immediately recognize the impact of the amount of product that is purchased and not wasted:
When it comes to disposing of the packaging, whether paper or polypropylene, we encourage our customers to incinerate the bags or to bury them in a chemically controlled landfill.
In many countries, it does not cost any more to implement this best practice and the payoffs in reduced waste and safer operations are obvious, as is the positive impact on the environment.
Please tell us about VECAP’s other areas of best practices in the next blog post.
That will be my pleasure.