Bio-based raw materials: A limited toolbox

Bio-based building blocks offer a path to increase the sustainability of coatings. We spoke to experts about how the industry can become more bio-based without any negative side effects.

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Bio-based coatings are getting more and more attention. Image source: Animaflora PicsStock -

There are different ways to include more bio-based carbon into coatings. A quite popular one is using drop in materials, which are bio-based but chemically identical to their petrochemical counterparts. For Elisabeth Meints, Technical Marketing Director at Hobum Oleochemicals, that is merely the beginning: “The 1:1 replacement is a first step towards more bio-based products. The next step in development is using so-called novel bio-based raw materials.”

These new materials, she explains “have different structures and properties than petrochemicals. Therefore, new formulations and processes need to be developed.” Joost Broeders, Technical Manager at Baril Coatings, agrees: “Although more and more suppliers are working on developing bio-based coating components, it is a toolbox with a rather limited number of available components.”

Equal performance is a must

Joost BroedersFrom the perspective of a coatings manufacturer Broeders (picture on the right) also underlines some demands: “When bio-based alternatives are available, they not always meet the conventional product specifications. The performance should of course at least be equal, but preferably they should outperform the conventional components”, he explains. Also, they should be available in a constant quality and required quantities. “We have experience with bio-based components that along the coating development stages met all criteria, but in upscaling and even at the point of market introduction gradually decreased in performance”, he says. This will probably not change quickly. “It takes courage to question and challenge the status-quo from the development as well as the market perspective”, says Elisabeth Meints.

Elisabeth MeintsEven though the trend to more bio-based coatings is rather new, it is worth thinking about how to avoid unwanted side effects. One way to ensure this, are universal standards. However, defining one can take too much time. It “would either not be completed in 5 years from now or make everybody having started their sustainability journey struggle”, says Elisabeth Meints (picture on the right). However, she names some criteria like an analytically traceable approach to ensure independent testing, a transparent methodology and an acceptable cost-benefit ratio.

Level playing field for bio-based coatings?

Joost Broeders favours a binding standard that grands a level playing field. At the moment he sees some disadvantages for bio-based coatings. He says: “Currently there are a lot of certifications, test protocols and labels available to rate the performance and sustainability of bio-based products”, and adds: “This leads to inequality as it is a mission impossible to perform all certification/test protocols.” Therefore, Broeders supports a harmonised tool to prepare a Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) combined with the certificate of the EU Ecolabel.

More information: This article is a shortened version of an interview from European Coating Journal 2/2021, that can be found at our online library.

Event tip

If you want to learn more about Joost Broeder’s view on a sustainable coatings industry and which roles bio-based coatings could play, you should watch his key-note at the European Coatings Show Conference 2021 at 13 September. The conference is held digitally and covers the latest innovations and developments in coatings technology, raw materials and trends.

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