GreenBiz.com showcases Playworld Systems' sustainability efforts

How Playworld Systems makes outdoor play sustainable

By Tish Tablan
Published May 31, 2013

Playworld Systems, a leading manufacturer of imaginative playground and fitness equipment, is committed to measurably reducing its impact on the environment. The company’s aggressive action to eliminate polyvinyl chloride (PVC) helped Playworld Systems become the first and only playground manufacturer to have its products Cradle to Cradle Certified Silver.

McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) interviewed Curtis Cleveland, director of environmental and materials engineering of Playworld Systems.

Tish Tablan: Why is sustainability important to your company?

Curtis Cleveland: Outdoor play is about getting communities in touch with one another and the environment. Our playground and fitness equipment is the focal point for tens of thousands of communities around the world, and we have tremendous respect for the natural environments with which our products co-exist. We feel responsible for making sure our equipment protects the health of our children and the environment to the greatest extent possible.

Tablan: What was the first major environmental initiative your company tackled?

Cleveland: The company designed a pyramid of priorities for environmental initiatives, and the top priority was to eliminate any materials that had the potential to be harmful. We decided to switch away from plasticized PVC coating and towards a polyethylene-based coating. Carcinogenic dioxins can be released during the manufacturing and incineration of PVC. Phthalates used to soften PVC has been linked to neurological disorders, cancer and childhood obesity. We did not want to be a part of that value chain any more.

In order to achieve this, we had to design and build a machine that really had never been built before, and we had to test the new coating to make sure it provided the same level of protection from outdoor elements and could withstand heavy foot traffic. Even with unknown return on investment, Playworld Systems invested $2.5 million during a recession to complete the conversion fluidized-bed powder coating process that uses polyethylene as a replacement for PVC. We as a company felt it was the right thing to do.

As a result of these efforts, Playworld Systems led the industry in becoming the first to commit to eliminating PVC from its products and the company succeeded in becoming 99.999 percent PVC-free.

Read the full article here.