Sunday, July 15, 2012
Biobased products are made from substances derived from living material. Several types of product categories are made from biobased substances including plastics, fuel additives, lubricants, coatings, and many others. Agricultural technology and biorefining allow the conversion of biomass, such as forest residues, corn, or switchgrass into fuel, power, and green-chemicals. The U.S. Farm Bill (2008) defines biobased materials as "commercial or industrial products (other than food or feed) that are comprised in whole or in significant part, of biological products, renewable agricultural materials (including plant, animals, and marine materials), forestry materials, and intermediate ingredients or feedstocks.
A few snowboard companies use biobased alternatives in place of petroleum-based resins and topsheet plastics. These biobased materials include soy-protein, nut and grain, and pine-oil-based materials. The environmental benefits of these alternatives include the use of renewable resources, fewer hazardous wastes, biodegradable material that doesn't sit in a landfill as long, less occupational exposure to chemical irritants, reducing or eliminating Bisphenol A (BPA), and in some cases recycling and reuse of pulp and paper waste stream byproducts.
One popular example of a a biobased epoxy resin is Snappy Sap, Niche Snowboard's proprietary replacement for traditional epoxy resins. Niche partnered with Entropy Resins and their eco-resin Super Sap to create a unique blend of epoxidized pine oil that is a byproduct of biomass sourced as a co-product or waste streams from the pulp and paper industry. Traditionally in the processing of timber into pulp and paper, the pulping process breaks down the wood fibers down into smaller pieces that are cooked. Through the process the waste material (pieces of bark, cellulose materials, and sticky pitch) is removed and not longer needed in the pulp and paper manufacturing. It's this recovered material that can be reused to make new biobased resin.
Biobased resins are also used in banking kayaks and boats and in surfboards. There are two questions that still remain in my mind. What about an eco-friendly harder (you have to mix the resin with a hardener to cure it) and how can you trace the water use in the supply chain for the biobased alternatives?