Industrial manufacturing and eco-friendly don't usually appear in the same sentence. In fact, they seem like polar opposites.
In a world that's going green, industrial operations have a problem; Their processes involve materials that are potentially toxic, flammable, corrosive, or reactive. If improperly managed, this can precipitate dangerous health and environmental consequences.
Countries around the world are reacting to environmental threats by enacting legislation and approving regulations that encourage an environmental sensitivity. They're looking for green solutions that reduce safety hazards and don't use potentially toxic components. Machine designers and engineers are becoming more aware of the challenges of using equipment that could harm human health, the environment, or other equipment. They're also more aware of the variety of regulations regarding toxic emissions in effect around the world.
If a US company wants to export equipment, it must produce products that comply with local environmental codes. In addition, legislation in the US increasingly provides strong incentives for developing products that have minimal impact on the environment.
Environmental standards for industrial cable
Europe and Asia have more restrictive industrial environmental standards than the US. Some directives have been in place for some time, including Europe's Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive and Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive (more on that below).
Another defining European Union regulation is Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), which addresses the production and use of chemical substances as well as their potential impact on both humans and the environment. REACH attempts to regulate both the safety and recyclability of products. It requires all companies manufacturing or importing chemical substances into the European Union in quantities of one ton or more per year to register these substances with a new European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). To date, companies have registered more than 30,000 materials and products to comply with REACH standards.
In the mid-2000s, the REACH, ROHS, and WEEE standards were updated to exclude certain known toxic substances such as lead, heavy metals, and some bromines. Manufacturers of industrial materials changed their products to meet these regulations. For example, all industrial cable sold today is more environmentally friendly than cable sold 10 years ago. A further step in minimizing environmental impact is to ensure that the compounds released when a product breaks down, or is set on fire, are not toxic. To have an eco-friendly machine, it's necessary to have eco-friendly components. Cabling is one of those components.
The green drawbacks of halogenated industrial cable
Most codes around the world agree that industrial-grade cable should be fire-resistant. Traditional cable jackets have been made with halogen-containing compounds such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and fluorinated ethylene propylene (FEP). Halogen is a recognized fire-suppressant and was ubiquitous for awhile, found in everything from industrial cables to children's pajamas.
While halogenated cables don't contain the toxic components they may have had in the previous century, when they do burn, they create a harmful acid by binding with moisture and they generate dense smoke. The acid can also cause corrosion and damage to sensitive and expensive equipment. This is true even if the equipment is never directly exposed to fire or flame-suppressants during firefighting.