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Biomass Technology

Researchers assess the environmental impact of bio-based adhesives.

“A more complete understanding of environmental impacts can help guide the biorenewables industry as it moves forward to more widespread deployment and adoption.”

Iowa State University researchers have found that bio-based adhesives have more of a positive impact on the environment in comparison to their fossil fuel-based counterparts.

In a report led by Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering-based Associate Professor Kurt Rosentrater (@isubioprocess) and Research Assistant Minliang Yang, the researchers highlighted how bio-based adhesives had less of an impact on the climate than traditional adhesives.

The Iowa State University researchers specifically focused on pressure sensitive adhesives (PSAs), which are able to bond materials on their surface by applying pressure. They specifically analysed how to utilise soy-based glycerin (a by-product from biodiesel production) as a feedstock for adhesives.

PSAs have been used in many areas, such as packaging tapes, automotive, electricity and medical industries, and demand for these materials have been growing.

The main aim of the study was to help guide commercial deployment of bio-based adhesives.

The results from the researchers showed that by producing 1kg of PSA, the global warming potential was estimated to be 3.84kg CO2-eq. Compared with petro-glycerol, PSA produced from bio-glycerol has less environmental impact (40% lower).

The study also analysed the costs of producing bio-based adhesives. The lowest unit production price was $2.76/kg for a 40 t/d PSA production plant, the study found.

Specifically, the study finds that electricity sources have large impacts on greenhouse gas emissions, while raw material cost was the most sensitive parameter with respect to product unit cost. However, the researchers acknowledge that future analyses should be conducted to compare both environmental and economic performance of bio-based adhesives with other sources.

As well as looking at bio-based adhesives, the researchers also analysed the environmental impacts of cellulosic butanol production and butanol bioprocessing production from oil palm frond.

In his foreword to his research papers, Professor Rosentrater said: “In recent years, we have witnessed tremendous growth in the research, development, and commercial investment in biorenewable resources. Starch, lipids, proteins, and fibres can be utilised to produce a variety of bio-based energy, fuels, products, chemicals, and other biorenewable materials.

“A more complete understanding of environmental impacts can help guide the biorenewables industry as it moves forward to more widespread deployment and adoption.”

More and more businesses are conducting lifecycle analysis studies on their products in order to verify environmental claims.

Speaking to Bio Market Insights for its World Bio Markets 2020 Outlook, Marco Jansen, Circular Economy & Sustainability leader for Europe & Asia at plastics specialist Braskem, recently said: “When it comes to sustainability, it has always been embedded in Braskem’s approach to our plastic products, but particularly our bio-based portfolio. We completed our third LCA of our I’m green polyethylene last year, and constantly review our supply chain via our code of conduct. Our environmental claims are vital to our business, and our customers have come to expect those very high standards to continue.”

If you were interested in this bioeconomy story, you may also be interested the ones below.

Read: UK to launch call for evidence on development of standards for bio-based and biodegradable plastics.

Read:Bio-based industry gives lukewarm response to UKs first bio-economy strategy.

Read:European Commission urges industry to do more to boost recycled plastics market.

Read:Regaining control of the bio-economy communication agenda

Visit: World Bio Markets, 23-25th March 2020, Amsterdam, the Netherlands 

Read: Emissions from production of plastics deserves same scrutiny as end-of-life debate, says expert.

Read: Consumers give biodegradable packaging the thumbs up, but are confused over terminology.

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