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Results of the meeting of the Environmental Label Jury in December 2021

New environmental label:
Underwater coatings and other antifouling systems

The submerged part of a ship – the hull – will over time become overgrown with water organisms such as algae, barnacles or muscles. This fouling increases the frictional resistance of the ship, which reduces the speed and increases fuel consumption. In addition, fouling can damage the hull itself or effect the manoeuvrability of the ship.

To prevent or minimise this fouling, an antifouling coating containing biocides is usually applied to the hull of the ship. The poisonous biocides in the coating are “systematically” released in order to kill the fouling organisms when they start to settle on the hull. It is thus impossible to prevent the biocides from continuously polluting the environment.

Alongside biocide-based antifouling coatings, there are also a series of non-biocidal antifouling systems available. They work in many different ways and range from non-stick coatings and films, cleanable hard coatings and ultrasound systems through to boat lifting systems. However, “biocide-free” does not always automatically mean that these products are more environmentally compatible. Antifouling products without biocides can also contain a range of substances with properties that are harmful to the environment and health.
The aim of the new ecolabel is to certify those non-biocidal antifouling systems that are both effective and also environmentally friendly in order to minimise the environmental risks caused by the introduction of biocides. Therefore, the Basic Award Criteria define requirements for numerous different categories (see above: colourants, non-stick coatings, films) to guarantee a defined level of environmental compatibility. As a second important component, criteria have been defined for most systems that are used to demonstrate that the products have a sufficient level of efficacy. In combination with an obligation to provide information on the safe and correct use of the product, the ecolabel guarantees that end consumers receive an effective and environmentally friendly product.
Benefits for the environment and health:

  • low level of harmful materials
  • effective antifouling protection
  • water friendly

New environmental label:
Particle separators for single-room log burners

Even if it is carried out in a proper manner, heating with wood causes significantly more air pollutant emissions than other energy sources such as heating oil or natural gas. It can result, therefore, in higher levels of particulate matter and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAHs) in the air in residential areas – especially if a lot of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces are operated at the same time during colder months in combination with weather conditions causing inversion or if the wood-burning stoves are located in valleys and basins. In particular, manually fuelled log burners (log-burning stoves) also emit soot (as a component of the particulate matter). Alongside its negative effect on human health, soot also has a very high global warming potential.

Against this background, a reduction in the emissions of particulate matter caused by, amongst other things, the operation of log burners is an important environmental goal. Particle separators can be fitted to wood-burning stoves to reduce the particulate matter produced during the burning of the wood and thus significantly decrease the amount of particulate matter that is particularly harmful to health.

The primary objective of the new ecolabel for “particle separators” designed for manually fuelled log burners is to improve air quality by contributing to a reduction in the emissions of particulate matter. They reduce particulate matter emissions to a much greater extent and more reliably than conventional particle separators. In addition to the statutory regulations for building approval tests for particle separators, the special requirements imposed by the Blue Angel mean that certified particle separators have to comply with a significantly higher minimum separating efficiency and they must also be effective during the ignition phase that involves a particularly high level of emissions. The particle separators must have additional functions that e.g. display the operating hours and indicate whether maintenance is required. This ensures the proper functionality of the particle separator over a long period of time.

By optimising the design and guaranteeing the provision of spare parts in the long term, manufacturers of particle separators also help to improve the durability and reliability of the devices.

Benefits for the environment and health:

  • Reduction in particulate matter
  • Easy to maintain
  • Longevity

When purchasing particle separators, the environmental label will thus act as a decision-making aid for the reduction of air pollutants from log burners.

Particle separators certified with the Blue Angel are primarily recommended for reducing particulate matter emissions from existing log burners. This additional equipment is not recommended for new stoves because stoves with an optimally matched particle separator that comply with the Blue Angel criteria for stoves (DE-UZ 212) are available instead.

New environmental label:
Thermal paper

Thermal paper is a special type of paper that people come into contact with in the form of cash register receipts, travel tickets or car park tickets. The text is not printed but activated in the paper due to a chemical reaction. Developer-based thermal papers have dominated the market up to now. However, the chemical colour developing systems used up to now are harmful to the environment and health. The most commonly used developer until very recently was bisphenol A, which was banned for this type of use across the EU at the beginning of 2020 due to its endocrine and reprotoxic effects. Other substances used as an alternative are, however, hardly any better and are also suspected of having properties that are toxic to humans or the environment. Therefore, thermal paper containing these colour developers should not be disposed of with other waste paper because the colour developer could find its way into recycled paper via the recycling process and also be introduced into the water cycle.

However, thermal paper without any colour developers is now also available on the market. This paper consists of a base paper that is fully coated with a pigment (black). This layer is then coated with a polymer layer comprising small polymer beads that collapse when heat is applied. The pigment becomes visible when the beads collapse.

The primary aim of the new ecolabel is to avoid the use of chemical colour developers that contain substances harmful to health and the environment.

It is necessary to use fluff pulp from virgin fibres in the production of thermal paper because the paper is very thin and it must have a high tensile strength or tear resistance. Raw materials from recovered paper cannot currently provide the required level of quality. Therefore, the Blue Angel ensures that the fibres have been sourced from sustainably managed forestry. Harvesting timber from forests that are particularly worthy of protection, e.g. tropical or boreal forests, is not accepted.

Benefits for the environment and health

  • Fibres from sustainable forestry
  • Low level of harmful materials
  • Recyclability

The following ecolabels have also been revised:

  • Sanitary paper products (DE-UZ 5)

  • Finished Products made from Recovered Paper and Cardboard (integration of UZ 56 into UZ 14b)

  • Low-Emission Furniture and Slatted Frames made of Wood and Wood-Based Materials (DE-UZ 38)

  • Hand Dishwashing Detergents, All-Purpose Cleaners, Sanitary Cleaners and Glass Cleaners (DE-UZ 194)

  • Dishwasher Detergents (DE-UZ 201)

  • Laundry Detergents (DE-UZ 202)

  • Biodegradable Lubricants and Hydraulic Fluids (DE-UZ 178)

  • Smartphones, Mobile Phones and Tablets (DE-UZ 106)

  • Hand-Held and Overhead Shower Heads (DE-UZ 157)

The documents with the revised and new criteria will be finalised over the next few weeks and will be made available under Basic Award Criteria. Manufacturers of particularly environmentally friendly products will be able to submit an application for the label.

New investigative order for artificial turf systems for sport facilities

Artificial turf pitches are used in the leisure and sports sectors as an alternative to natural grass pitches and are becoming increasingly common due to the fact that, amongst other things, they can be used all year round, are more durable and require less maintenance. However, the use of artificial turf can have various effects on the environment and health and the introduction of microplastics into the environment is a much-discussed topic. This is mainly due to the loss of the infill granules, as well as to a much lower extent the impact of the sporting activities, maintenance measures, wind and rain. Another issue are the pollutants and critical additives such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), perfluorinated and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), volatile organic substances (VOC) and heavy metals that are also discharged together with the plastic components – and which are found in the recycled materials (e.g. old tyres) that are currently used or also in new materials for granulates, fibres and carpet backings and cushioning layers.

The aim of developing criteria for an ecolabel for artificial turf pitches is to label those artificial turf pitches that stand out due to their lower emissions of microplastics and lower pollutant content and which fulfil certain installation requirements, are recyclable and/or contain recyclate and thus significantly improve the status quo.