One of the nation’s oldest sign printers is at the forefront of a new initiative to help use billboards and other outdoor displays to fight air pollution and global warming.
Vincent Printing, an 83-year-old large sign print shop in Chattanooga which merged with the Phoenix-based BP Graphics in April to create Convergent Print, pioneered the first use of a sign coating in 2017. The topcoat is invisible but when light strikes the surface of the coated signs, the coating acts as a photocatalytic catalyst to break down nitrogen oxides and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and indirect greenhouse gases.
“This product can help make outdoor advertising assets into strategically placed air purifiers,” said Beau Wells, the president of the Convergent Print Group who is eager to expand the use of the new technology.
The coating and its binding application chemistry known as EnhanceAir was developed by a Cincinnati company, PUREIT Group LLC, and has been shown to reduce the amount of NOx in the air it comes in contact with by more than 30% on signs and up to 70% on cement.
Brian Haas, who bought the company in 2013, has worked with Wells to market the air cleaning coating around the country, including the application on part of the Atlanta Braves Truist stadium last year.
“I’ve been working for the past 10 years to help turn this from a science project to a real company and we think we are now at an important inflection point,” Haas said in an interview on Thursday.
When sunlight strikes the EnhanceAir coating, it begins a series of reactions that turn oxygen and humidity into powerful cleaning agents that scrub the air and destroy pollutants, including volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) and nitrogen oxide (NOx).
The technology of using light to break down some pollutants and clean the air was developed by Japanese researchers decades ago when they demonstrated some of the first photovoltaic measures to clean the air. But Haas said finding a way to apply such chemicals in a clear and binding way on signs and buildings is what distinguishes PUREIT’s patented formula.
Most of the initial interest has come from Europe where governments have imposed taxes on air pollution in some areas and where the European Union is considering proposals to require businesses to do more to limit, capture or break down air pollutants linked with climate change.
So when Wells was looking for ways to promote more use of the EnhanceAir topcoat, he approached the leading British sign maker using the technology, the MediaCo Group, to create a partnership this spring to promote the eco-friendly technology and help make it a globally recognized brand.
“This is a global problem that will require global partners joining in many different ways,” Wells said. “Over time, we plan to expand this partnership to include other like-minded organizations with the intent of helping our industry play an important role in addressing the problems of air pollution and supporting brands throughout the world who are serious about making a positive impact on the environment.”
Stephen Arthur, managing director at MediaCo Group, calls EnhanceAir “a game changer” for businesses and governments looking for ways to improve their environmental performance by improving air quality.
“By coating their out-of-home and retail advertising displays with EnhanceAir, companies can make an immediate improvement to the environment by converting contaminated air into clean air and move one step closer to having a Net Zero footprint,” Arthur said in an announcement of his company’s partnership with Convergent Print Group.
Convergent and MediaCo are two of the world’s biggest producers of large and grand-format graphics. But Wells said he is eager to expand the use of the EnhanceAir coating to many more companies, including their competitors, and anticipates the product to be effective in a variety of outdoor settings to help break down and limit such indirect greenhouse gases of NOx and VOCs.
The environmental focus by sign printers and billboard companies is far different than in the 1960s when the industry fought against billboard restrictions pushed by environmental groups objecting to highway signs blocking or ruining natural views. In the 1960s, Lady Bird Johnson championed an environmental initiative to convince her husband, President Lyndon Johnson, and the U.S. Congress to limit billboard locations through the Highway Beautification Act of 1965.
“Ugliness is so grim,” the former First Lady once said.
But Haas and Wells are convinced that billboards and other outdoor signs can now take a lead in convincing businesses around the world about the potential for photovoltaic air purification on not just billboards but buildings, vehicles and even parking lots.
“Climate change is not something we can solve overnight,” Wells said. “There is no single action that can be taken to reverse the effects of pollution. However, there are tools available today that can be deployed by companies in various industries to start on the path of making a difference. EnhanceAir is one of those tools.”
Wells and Haas said global interest in EnhanceAir continues to grow as both public and investor interest in fighting climate change and air pollution grows.
Whether you are a believer or non-believer of climate change, EnhanceAir is a simple way brands can have an immediate impact on the environment and make our world a better place,” Arthur said.
Contact Dave Flessner at [email protected] or 423-757-6340.