The Future of Bio-Based Coatings
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The Future of Bio-Based Coatings

February 21, 2024

The Future of Bio-Based Coatings

By Jessica Hoffmann, Technical Sales Representative, Latex Binders

Sustainability remains top of mind for those in the coatings business, especially as the European Union looks to implement new regulations around chemical usage. As a result, manufacturers are looking for ways to incorporate more environmentally friendly materials into their product portfolios.

Bio-based feedstocks have developed from niche and “nice to have” to a requirement in many industries as they are critical to enhancing sustainability in coatings applications. However, many industry players may have limited feedstock availability based on location or lack the technology to process bio-based materials.

That’s why manufacturers must also look to integrate recycled content alongside bio-based materials as they work to develop more sustainable coatings in the long term. Significant investments into developing sustainable feedstocks and recycling technology – similar to the work done by Trinseo – will be key to improving the sustainability of coating applications.

Utilizing Bio-based Feedstocks

Integrating bio-based feedstocks into coatings products is one step to improving the end product’s carbon footprint. In this bio-based feedstock approach, renewable resources derived from organic waste — such as seed shells or vegetable oils not used as a food source — are carefully introduced into the production chain. Some feedstocks even produce proteins as a side product, which could be used in the future as a fertilizer.

The biomass balance process ensures that only an appropriate amount of bio-based content is added to feedstocks, allowing fossil-based materials to be slowly eliminated as coating manufacturers adjust their formulas to meet performance needs. This chain of custody model also helps validate some sustainability claims based on accurate record keeping, as companies can trace the flow of their product throughout the value chain.

However, it is important to note that changing European regulations impact how manufacturers can source bio-based feedstocks. Today, industry players will need to evaluate their sources’ land usage and water consumption to ensure that they align with legislative guidelines.

Integrating Recycled Content

While bio-based feedstocks are certainly important when manufacturing a more sustainable coating, recycled feedstocks play a key role because recycling can take place wherever materials are used. This is unlike bio-based feedstocks, which often lack regional availability, making them more difficult to procure, increasing transportation costs and delivery timeframes, and negatively impacting a company’s carbon footprint.

Recent investments in chemical recycling have made recycled feedstocks more readily available in local markets. Chemical recycling uses heat, chemical reactions, or both to break down plastic waste into raw materials that can be used in coatings manufacturing. Throughout the chemical recycling process, waste is collected at the end of its life, treated, and repurposed into a recycled monomer. This high-quality feedstock is then used to polymerize the latex binders found in coatings.

Chemical recycling allows manufacturers to track their recycled materials in the value chain while reducing the consumption of fossil resources – improving the circularity of coatings. Bio-based coatings improve the industry’s environmental impact, but manufacturers must also consider incorporating recycled feedstocks. Utilizing both materials will only further the ability to make more sustainable coatings while allowing companies to track their progress.

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