Bio-based resins on the rise

In the paint and coatings industry, many efforts have been recently devoted to the development of bio-based materials. Bio-based products derive from plants and other renewable agricultural, marine and forestry materials to provide an alternative to conventional fossil-derived products. The conversion of biomass and bio-based ingredients into useful products for paints and coatings provides a considerable and sustainable growth potential.

Driven by regulations and consumers, an ever-increasing push towards sustainability and a reduced carbon footprint has inevitably influenced the resins industry. This transition to green business is not seen as a challenge in Helios Resins but as an obligation of the industry, which must act responsibly on all levels to promote the spread of sustainable technologies. We take on our role in this global movement with dedication and conviction, earnestly believing that meeting today’s need has to be done “without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future).

The meaning of the term “environmentally friendly” in the context of coatings and consequently resins has evolved over the years. Initially, the goal was pollution prevention or reduction. This meant reducing solvents in formulations as well as producing high solid coatings, waterborne and 100% non-volatile coatings such as powder coatings. While the previously mentioned solutions and approaches are still part of the green strategy and are certainly part of Helios Resins’ portfolio, every stage from the production to the end-of-life is considered nowadays – from raw material manufacturing to formulations up to application and disposal.

Biomass as single origin

Providing alternatives to conventional fossil-derived materials is one of our strategic goals. Thus, Helios Resins is investing in the research and development of new bio-based resins produced from bio-monomers that are obtained from a great range of biological carbon sources. In each case, the origin is biomass that is broken down by using adapted chemical processes in a bio-refinery to produce biochemicals that lead to bio-monomers. We are replacing petro-based terephthalic acid with FDCA or recycled terephthalic acid in bio-polyesters for coil. Furthermore, petro-based adipic acid is replaced with bio-based succinic or sebacic acid in bio-polyesters used in 2K PUR coating formulations. Some of our projects include the use of bio-isosorbide and bio-based 1,3-propanediol, 1,4-butanediol and 1,5-pentanediol. Moreover, we are already using monomers that are partially or entirely bio-based in our conventional products, mostly polyesters. Such examples are neopentyl glycol, trimethylolpropane and pentaerythritol. There are two certification approaches in order to determine and communicate the bio-based content to our customers.

1. Biobased content quantified with the 14C carbon dating

A carbon dating method that checks the radioactivity of the carbon isotope is commonly used to determine the percentage of renewable raw materials. Carbon-based materials originating from living organisms (the biobased component) have Carbon-14 in them, while fossil materials (derived from petroleum) no longer have this weakly radioactive carbon isotope. Hence, all the Carbon-14 in the product comes from the biobased component. This method is standardized in both Europe (EN 16640, CEN 16137) and the USA (ASTM D-6866). Products with a minimum bio-based content of 20 percent can be verified by certification bodies such as TÜV Austria or DIN CERTCO and recognized by awarding a label.

2. Mass balance method via one of the certification schemes

Declaring bio-based content by using the mass balance method is another approach. This method is, in essence, a chain of custody approaches that traces the flow of material through a value chain. The inputs and outputs as well as the associated information are monitored and controlled as shown in Figure 2 (The Mass Balance Approach › ISCC System (iscc-system.org)). Different certification schemes support this method, among them ISCC PLUS, REDcert and RSB. Since some of our suppliers were already holders of the ISCC PLUS certification, we took the necessary steps to certify our products with bio-based raw material by using the ISCC certification scheme. We can proudly report that we were successful in this undertaking and now offer several polyester resins with the ISCC PLUS certification.

Even though the price premium for bio-based resins remains a challenge, as customers expect performance benefits for a higher price, Helios Resins is committed to increasing the awareness of nature and climate protection and investing in potential solutions for reducing carbon footprints.