Bio-based coatings encompass a broad product category. However, they use natural resources such as essential oils, foods, and forest products to perform comparably to those typically derived from fossil fuels. These products are in high demand, whether a manufacturer develops a single bio-based ingredient for a coating or releases a coating primarily made of bio-based options, instead of conventional fossil-based products. Here’s a look at why that’s the case.
They Support Positive Manufacturing Changes
A 2022 Boston Consulting Group study found that 69% of companies’ digital initiatives focus on environmental programs. Indeed, many use data analysis programs, digital twins and artificial intelligence to find the most effective ways to cut emissions and reduce resource usage. Decision makers are also eager to future proof their operations by determining how to transition to more eco-friendly practices and processes. Bio-based coatings align with that goal.
Creating More Bio-Based Resins
Although consumers are more interested in coatings with bio-based ingredients, the market can only gather momentum when enough people see they are available and decide to try them. Thus, ongoing product releases are crucial for making potential purchasers curious.
In one case, a company developed a bio-based resin that includes a vegetable-derived solvent as one of its ingredients. It’s a standout product because most solvents are still petroleum-based, but this one is 100% bio-based. Paint manufacturers must only mix the resin with pigments and other desired additives to create their products. This is an example of an option that paint makers could use as a selling point, catering to customers who want to make more environmentally friendly choices.
Another instance is to develop plant-based resins for coatings. The goal is to have up to 52% of a product’s carbon content come from natural materials. In addition to advertising, company officials plan to proactively educate peers and partners about the benefits of this product line. One outreach aspect involves encouraging these parties to sign a sustainability pledge.
Supporting Collaboration for Future Manufacturing Improvements
Another example of the progress that could result in more bio-based coatings and ingredients involves the University of York and Circa Group, a renewable chemicals company, teaming up to create the Circa Renewable Chemistry Institute (CRCI). University officials have worked with Circa representatives for almost a decade and thought the time was right to turn the collaboration into something more official.
One of the results of the teamwork, so far, has been developing a multipurpose eco-friendly solvent called Cyrene that works better than petroleum-based chemicals. This new institute aims to create and produce bio-based chemicals that are safer for the chemical sector to use. Besides applications in the paint and coatings industry, Cyrene’s uses extend to textile recycling, pharmaceuticals, and more.
Analysts believe the bio-based solvents market will reach $5.9 billion in 2023. Success from innovative products like Cyrene show it’s worthwhile to keep working on similar products. One of CRCI’s priorities is to investigate development scalability. That will be critical for many of these products to have a mainstream impact.
Bio-Based Coatings and Their Ingredients are Often Less Toxic
There’s no single reason behind the rise of bio-based coatings. However, one of the big drivers is that people continually look for products that are less likely to harm themselves, others, or pets. Whether they’ll use these products for DIY projects or hire professional contractors for specific jobs, consumers generally appreciate using less toxic items than their conventional counterparts.
One example is when people look for less harmful solvents. Solvents help bind coating ingredients, and manufacturers have traditionally used chemical-based ones. They provide the medium into which all the coating’s ingredients can mix. Additionally, some chemical-based solvents enhanced how the coating performed. However, solvent evaporation causes air pollution that harms the environment and people.
In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency has restricted the maximum solvent content that coatings can contain. Manufacturers have responded to this change by looking for alternatives, including water-based solvents. Because these products are less volatile, they’re typically less toxic, making them much more attractive for various uses.
Exposure to conventional solvents causes various short- and long-term health risks, necessitating multiple control measures to reduce the threats. Bio-based solvents are not automatically less toxic. However, many companies have created options that are, making them attractive to people looking for nontoxic or low-toxicity solvents.
For example, the European Union’s ReSolute project aims to produce safer solvents by using cellulosic feedstock. Participants are focusing on scaling up Cyrene. They believe it can replace the existing solvents NMP, DMF, and DMAc, noting that these conventional products face increasing regulatory pressure. Meeting the project’s goals would mean achieving a 20-fold increase in production levels, equaling 1,000 tons, annually.
Bio-Based Coatings Enable Waste Reduction Through Packaging Improvements
People exploring how to live and operate businesses more sustainably often focus on minimizing waste. That might mean being more careful about how they consume resources, curbing excess at every opportunity. However, it could also entail exploring how bio-based coatings could help consumers be less wasteful.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV are using the BioActiveMaterials project to explore balancing sustainable food packaging and options that preserve shelf life. One of the approaches involves using a bio-based protein coating for paper bags.
Although paper is bio-based and recyclable, its poor oxygen barrier typically makes it an unsuitable option for food packaging when used alone. However, people developing this coating believe the innovation will compete with multilayer mineral oil-based packaging.
They also wanted to ensure their development met the requirements of the German Packaging Act. It’s a broad and far-reaching effort to reduce how much waste goes into landfills rather than being recycled.
Another case concerns the Finnish Sustainable Binders and Coatings (SUSBINCO) project. It involves seven universities and 11 companies working to make bio-based packaging improvements. The participants ultimately hope to develop bio-based coatings and binders that go into fiber-based packaging, as well as numerous other products like paints, adhesives and sealants.
In this case, the project scope is larger than packaging. However, as people create packages that are kinder to the environment, there’s a good chance their successes will expand to bio-based coatings and their ingredients. That would be good news for SUSBINCO and the planet.
Bio-Based Coatings Will Remain Relevant
These are some of the many reasons why people are eager to develop and try bio-based coatings. Members of modern society must work together toward a greener future by increasing their use of more sustainable products. Although many of the bio-based coatings and ingredients mentioned here are not yet produced commercially, people understand that ramping up production is critical for mainstream adoption and overall success.