Chromcraft adds soy to foam ‘recipe’

Mississippi Business Journal – November 9, 2009

Mississippi company using renewable raw materials to make foam

By Wally Northway STAFF WRITER

On Nov. 3, the team at residential and commercial furniture manufacturer Chromcraft in Senatobia were hard at work incorporating a new formula in their “recipe” for foam. The company, a division of Chromcraft Revington Inc., has taken another step in its commitment to promoting sustainable home and work environments. The latest action incorporates renewable raw materials — namely soy — into polyurethane foam.

Matt Prochaska, President,
Chromcraft Contract Division
Photo Credit: Mississippi Buisiness Journal

In January of this year, Chromcraft attained GREENGUARD certification, which is mainly focused on LEED components and controlling air pollution. Implementing soy-based material from California-based Matt_Prochaska_MBJHoney Bee Polyol represents the company.s attempt to utilize renewable, sustainable raw materials.

“The company has had a strong commitment to the environment for years,” said Matt Prochaska, president, Chromcraft Contract Division. “The industry has been moving toward renewable raw materials. We began looking at opportunities to increase our stewardship level, and found soy could be added.”

Incorporating soy into the foam it makes inhouse required extensive homework and research. For some 18 months, chemists and engineers played with the material and formula, testing to see how it could be incorporated into Chromcraft’s manufacturing process and ensuring that the finished product would meet quality standards.

The results were positive. Prochaska said the cost of soy-added foam was equal to the cost of its former formula. In fact, the process was found to be more efficient than the former process, and the quality of the foam was as good, and in some cases better, than the polyurethane foam it was using.

In a statement, Chromcraft said the new foam cushions comply with rigorous physical test standards demanded for residential and commercial seating applications and prove it is possible to produce environmentally-friendly foam without sacrificing critical performance attributes. This replacement of a portion of petroleum-derived chemical with Honey Bee polyol allows Chromcraft to expand environmental efforts on many levels.

“The end product is a consistent soy-polyol that works well with conventional urethane materials to produce high-quality foams,” the statement read. “The polyol contributes to Presidential initiatives for U.S. production and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009; its use also enables Chromcraft to make a positive impact on U.S. farming initiatives.”

Prochaska added that the new process required only minimal equipment changes, and that the company was expecting a return on its investment “immediately”.

While Chromcraft plays down its efforts, Honey Bee, a unit of MCPU Polymer Engineering, has been duly impressed with Chromcraft.s commitment to a greener product. Holly Cash, product manager for Honey Bee, said the changing of the formula was “a big deal,” and that the conversion shows Chromcraft’s leadership and dedication to the environment.

Honey Bee walks the “green” talk. MCPU claims its proprietary technology takes soybean oil to polyol in one clean, efficient step, saving energy and reducing the greenhouse effect.

The soy material is produced in the Midwest, made from locally-grown soybeans. Prochaska said the fact that Honey Bee used domestically-grown soy was a large factor in choosing it for the foam material.

Chromcraft represents Honey Bee’s first client in Mississippi, and the company said it learned a lot from the Chromcraft project. Most important, it proved that the soy material has a practical application and can be implemented in a cost-effective, efficient manner. It will put Chromcraft on its resume when talking to clients in the future as proof its product is viable and affordable.

Both Chromcraft and MCPU said it will continue efforts to replace non-sustainable content with more renewable materials in the future.

Chromcraft Revington businesses design residential and commercial furniture marketed throughout all of North America. The company wholesales its residential furniture products under Chromcraft, Cochrane and Peters- Revington as primary brand names. It sells commercial furniture exclusively under the Chromcraft brand name. The Senatobia plant is the company.s only U.S. manufacturing facility for its commercial and motion-based casual dining furniture.

Chromcraft’s eco-improved seating will be available for purchase in the fourth quarter of this year.

Prochaska, who said he has heard of another Mississippi furniture manufacturer exploring a move to greener raw materials, gave advice to other manufactures looking at being more environmentally-friendly. He said they should look at the opportunities in their industry, do extensive homework and then “go green — the consumer, manufacturer and the environment all win.”