When Show-me first came about in the late ’90s, the best material to use for producing mini boards at a scale to keep up with demand, and using British manufacturing, was Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC). This gave a great drywipe surface but came with several other challenges:
- The environmental impact
- Local polymer availability
- Print adherence
This is why, after considerable research into alternatives, we starting production of Show-me boards using Polypropylene (PP) as the base material.
What are the differences between PP and PVC?
On a Molecular Level
PP is one of the most neutral plastics produced as it only contains two elements: carbon (C) and hydrogen (H). PVC however contains about 30% by weight of the element Chlorine (Cl) in its core structure. It is clearly documented that chlorine is a dangerous substance in the environment.
PP is much more tolerant to heat – and even under very extreme conditions it will only generate carbon dioxide and water.
PVC is very unstable in heat – and if burnt produces toxic by-products such as dioxins, chlorocarbons and hydrochloric acid.
Stringent guidelines are in place for its proper handling as it is highly dangerous to transport and store. There have been numerous studies of the negative health effects on workers exposed to PVC monomer, however much of the world’s PVC comes from China where respect of human rights falls well below that of the West.
PP is 100% recyclable – because PP doesn’t have lead or any other heavy metals in the manufacturing process.
PVC is much more difficult and dangerous to recycle – firstly because of its intrinsic chemical composition and also because of the additives it contains. PVC is inherently dangerous in its basic form, and it also needs a large amount of lead to stabilise it. Lead is highly toxic both during the life cycle of a product and after its disposal.
PP helps in reducing greenhouse gas emissions – because it’s manufactured from propylene monomer, a relatively safe gas, which is a waste by-product of the petroleum industry. It used to be burned off into the atmosphere contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, the more PP used in products helps to reduce these gas emissions which adds up to PP being better for the environment. It’s clear that PP is a safer, non-toxic and environmentally friendly alternative to the obsolescent technologies that gave us plastics such as PVC.
This article is a short overview of why PVC is not a good material, for more in-depth, and slightly terrifying reading see The USA’s Center for Health, Environment & Justice website. Publications_PVC >>
Show-me boards now
Since 2015 no Show-me boards have been produced using PVC, they are made from PP and some clever processes to make them the best mini whiteboards globally.
As you probably know, mini whiteboards are one of the most environmentally friendly products that a school can use, because of the amount of paper they save. Show-me boards however go much further than this, and far further than other types of boards like coated fibreboards such as MDF.
All plastic Show-me boards manufactured since 2015 are:
1. 100% recyclable
2. Coated with a permanent protective shield
3. Flexible without deformation
4. Made in England
1 – Even with the cleverly designed protective shield, Plastic Show-me boards are 100% recyclable at the end of their long useful life. They can be put in your normal mixed recycling bin.
2 – A clever protective shield gives a superior drywipe surface but also seals in the printed design on the boards, meaning they have a longer life, and children are not able to remove the design by picking or scratching the boards.
3 – Bendy boards are good! If you bend an MDF board it snaps as shown here. This is clearly not good for children to have in the classroom.
PVC also deforms more when bent which gives odd-shaped boards which are not as useful as flat ones! PP is highly flexible and is virtually impossible to tear or snap as shown compared to PVC in this image.
4 – Home sweet home. For significantly fewer air or sea miles, the base material of our Show-me boards is made in Europe and the print and other processes are done in England. A local community interest company that gives employment to those who would otherwise struggle to have a job, such as those with physical and learning disabilities, is used to assemble all Show-me kits.