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Thursday, 26 November 2020
Raw materials & technologies, Applications

Experts interview: Wood coatings and sustainability

Thursday, 22 October 2020

Wood is seen as one of the most sustainable building material for all kinds of products. To live up to these expectations, wood coatings have to be as sustainable as possible, too. We spoke with experts about the current technical challenges.

(Picture: Gabriel -

(Picture: Gabriel -

A big task, not only for wood coatings, is the pressure on biocide usage. Regulations like the Biocide Directive 528/2012 and 98/8/EG are affecting the industry. Even though this is a big task at hand, it is not necessarily just a bad development. "You can already see how the move away from biocides is acting as a catalyst for innovation.  As we tackle the question of what a biocide-free wood coatings sector looks like, I think we can expect to see some interesting sector developments”, explains PPGs R&D Wood coatings director Jos Kemp.  

Wood coatings without biocides?

Regulations and labelling already reduced the number of biocides as Claudia Schirp, project manager at Fraunhofer WKI, explains: "Talking of exterior wood coatings, the biocide cocktail has almost been reduced to propiconazol, IPBC and tebuconazol. Nevertheless, the amount of active ingredients should be as low as possible." 

Claudia Schirp - Fraunhofer WKI

Claudia Schirp is a Project Manager at Fraunhofer WKI in Germany.

Getting rid of biocides in wood coatings once and for all will be difficult, as Schirp explains. "But with respect to toxic and allergic reactions we should always rethink specific applications”, she adds. For Jos Kemp the end goal is "to create a clean product with a lengthy shelf life by using our innovative capacity at PPG to discover alternative solutions as to what we can do with different paint formulations.” 

Technical possible vs. markable

Of course, biocides are just one factor that affect the development of wood coatings. However, the experts have different views on the technical challenges. As Schirp states: "Technical challenges in the field of wood coatings are widely solved, at least scientifically.” Even though, she adds "Sometimes the question is, if the technical solution is economical enough.” For Kemp, who has to develop wood coatings that are technically up to speed and economically marketable, the situation is a bit more difficult. One example is the shift towards more water-based products.

Jos Kemp

Jos Kemp is R&D Manager for Wood Coatings at PPG in the Netherlands.

"We have seen great progress in this area, but the industry is yet to achieve a water-based product that provides all the same qualities as solvent-based”, says Kemp. One topic PPG is focusing on is increasing the open time and mirror gloss of water-based wood coatings. He also sees potential to increase efficiency for the painter and extend the durability further. "For us the journey to being more environmentally friendly is not just focused on the products we make but creating something that lasts longer to allow for green savings across its lifecycle”, he explains.  

Bio-based for more sustainability

Sustainability is also on the mind of Claudia Schirp. She says: "When you ask for renewable raw materials, recyclability and environment pollution by micro plastics, there is still plenty of room for research and development”, and adds: "I rather see needs in recycling systems and technologies instead of new functions of the material.” 

The transition to bio-based wood coatings is also a key point for Jos Kemp. "A bio-based accreditation on a product is one of our bigger selling points right now”, he says. However, this has its limits as he adds: "but we and our customers will not accept any reduced performance in exchange.”

Furter informations

More about wood coatings and their latest technological developments can be found at our online library European Coatings 360°. In issue 9/2020 you can find a more detailed and more comprehensive interview with both experts.

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