Safe – Maintenance-Free - Harmless High-Tech Passenger Straps: PVC-Free and Self-Disinfecting

Kortrijk (Belgium) / Wuppertal (Germany), October 20, 2011.
During the rush hour in conurbations people are crowded close together in overfilled buses and trains. And here it is not just the passengers who are subjected to stress. A great burden is also placed on a rather inconspicuous object: the passenger strap. Innumerable times they have to reliably support innumerable standing passengers who hold onto them.
At the Busworld 2011 HAPPICH, the leading interior fitter for special vehicles and commercial vehicles, is now presenting a completely new development of the company’s own classic strap with a whole range of advantages. Here the prime focus is on improving safety and harmlessness for people and the environment. The new strap is made of food-safe special plastic, and achieves the same pleasant haptics as its predecessor made of PVC, but without toxic plasticizers. And it is also more stable and above all self-disinfecting, making it practically maintenance-free.

PVC is a relatively cheap material and is unbeatable in many areas of use. For passenger straps in public buses and trains, for instance, PVC was regarded as without alternative because of its positive ergonomic properties: soft and smooth, elastic, easy to hold onto, and at the same time gentle to the skin and with a secure grip. However, there was a tendency to accept without question its clearly negative properties.
• In its basic form PVC is actually hard and brittle and it is not only extremely toxic when it is burnt and therefore has to be disposed of on depositories for hazardous waste; it also needs so-called plasticizers – chemical name: phthalates – whose damaging impact on health is now undisputed. They constantly leak out of the plastic, and in combination with water or through hand sweat they penetrate into the human body, where they damage liver and kidneys and cause cancer and infertility.
• Another disadvantage of PVC as a material for passenger straps is its instability. Although it is elastic in its plasticized form, when subjected to a continuous load it would overstretch and break. The PVC strap is therefore hollow and incorporates stable belt webbing. The PVC external grip and the internal belt webbing are only connected to each other by a punched hole at the top end of the strap, which represents a great weakness in terms of safety. On the one hand a frequent and heavy burden, particularly on the punched hole, affects the tensile strength of the strap. On the other hand the unconnected belt webbing on the inside can get twisted; which leads to unevenness and knotting and unevenly distributed loads. Consequently the PVC is partly more severely worn out and has unpleasant haptics.
• Conventional PVC belt webbing straps are not self-disinfecting and consequently represent a greater infection hazard, particularly because of the short and frequent contact with the most varied types of healthy or ill persons. They therefore have to be frequently cleaned with aggressive cleaning agents, which shortens their operating lives.

In developing the new passenger strap, the aim was to rule out all the above-mentioned disadvantages of conventional PVC belt webbing passenger straps – damaging to the environment and health-threatening, instability and hence risk of breaking, high maintenance and cleaning expenditure and shorter operating life. However, at the same time the important advantage of the pleasant haptics were to be retained.
At the end of a one-year research and development process the specialists from the platform “Profile” at HAPPICH GmbH finally succeeded in their quest and developed the new PVC-free, self-disinfecting passenger straps.
• It consists of a completely harmless and food-safe special plastic (metallocene catalyzed polyethylene, abbreviation: mPE). This mPE burns without any toxic gases, is 100 percent recyclable and can also be completely disposed of on normal refuse dumps.
• mPE presents absolutely no risk to health. In its basic condition it is already a softer material which hence requires no plasticizers to make it pleasant to touch and slip-free. At the same time it does not accumulate any bacteria on its surface and is also resistant against aggressive substances, such as cleaning agents or hand sweat.
• Thanks to its thermoplastic properties, the mPE outside material can be completely fused together with a stable internal belt webbing strap in a single production process.
“Here we are the first development and production company which has been able to successfully directly combine the plastic of the new passenger strap in the extrusion profile process through an innovative welding process with the embedded belt webbing strap”, enthused Matthias Migl, Director Acoustics and Profiles at HAPPICH. He is hoping that the new high-tech passenger strap will also be able to compete with its PVC predecessor in terms of price.

Additional safety advantage: upon request the new passenger strap can be also impregnated with luminescent pigments. This enables passengers to also recognize the straps at night and hold onto them.