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Saturday, 26 September 2020

Bio-based coatings: Hype or opportunity?

Thursday, 6 November 2014 | Posted by: Sonja Schulte, European Coatings Journal

When critics read headlines like this, they must surely think: that’s just another marketing ploy! Maybe they’re right. But I believe that bio-based raw materials for the coatings industry may also be an opportunity to secure the future.

After all, they have long been used in the coatings industry. Alkyds are just one example, even if they have since fallen out of favour. Instead, there has been a general shift towards "bio” in recent years.

Bio-based raw materials could afford a way to develop more sustainable products. This is not a view that everyone subscribes to, as "environmental friendliness” always depends on which factors are plugged into the life-cycle analysis formula. Unfortunately, a single, generally accepted formula that is used by everyone in the European coatings industry has still to be found. And that complicates the debate.

Sustainability is not the only reason why I think bio-based raw materials represent a viable alternative to petrochemical raw materials. If bio-based coating systems existed that delivered the same performance as conventional coatings, we wouldn’t be so reliant on oil reserves or at the mercy of the oil moguls. When oil really does become scarce one day and prices rise accordingly (o.k. at the moment oil is quite cheap, but this will change surely within the next 10 years), bio-based raw materials could constitute an alternative – and a cheaper one.

For the time being, the European coatings industry may be a technology leader, e.g., in waterbornes. But other regions, especially Asia, are learning quickly and catching up. The growing middle class in these countries aspires to western standards and is increasingly demanding environmentally friendly coating systems.

By developing efficient bio-based coatings in good time, Europe could create a new technological advantage and would have solutions ready for when oil becomes scarce and too expensive.

Maybe you disagree? Why not share your opinion with us and other experts at the European Coatings conference "Biobased materials for industrial coatings".

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Sonja Schulte
European Coatings Journal
Sonja Schulte
Editor-in-Chief, Science & Technology
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