In our last article we investigated the difference between biodegradable, compostable and bio-based in relation to packaging following the global trend of both companies and consumers looking to produce and buy products that are more environmentally friendly. Today we will explain the role of adhesives and how they can fit into this equation.
It is true that the knowledge and awareness of greener and more sustainable packaging materials (e.g. compostable, reusable, biodegradable etc.) is growing, however it is often confusing and difficult for some to assess the impact adhesives have on this industry’s sustainability model for they are a small but nonetheless crucial component of modern packaging.
What are adhesives made from and can they be recycled?
Most hot-melt adhesives are typically made from a combination of polymers, resins, waxes and functional additives which makes them a form of thermoplastic. Thermoplastics, which are substances that become plastic upon heating and harden on cooling, are easily recyclable, but some can end up as microplastics in the marine environment. This is one of the biggest challenges for the adhesives industry.
Adhesives are integral to the manufacture of packaging, and most modern recycling and waste management measures ensure that no glue from these materials enters the marine environment. When it comes to recycling the likes of paper and cardboard packaging, the EU Agenda states that standard paper mill technology is designed to separate and remove adhesives during the papermaking process.
Most hot melts are not readily recycled but it is vital that they are recycling compatible – they must not affect the bonded product’s ability to be recycled. Some adhesives make this process more difficult, forming a substance commonly known as ‘stickies’ as they can soften to form jelly like globules in the pulping process, but generally these cause no great concern and are an accepted part of the recycling process.
Unused quantities of hot-melt adhesives can be recycled back into similar products and although not always practical, if there is the ability to remove the adhesive from its applied surface this too may be recycled back into similar product types. When Beardow Adams produces hot melts, there is virtually zero wasted material and any unused adhesive is often re-worked.
How can adhesive and packaging manufacturers work together to provide greener solutions?
In our industry, it’s vital that adhesives allow packaging materials to be disposed of correctly – they must be removable and should not compromise the finished product, the production process or the environment whilst being recycled. However, it is just as important for adhesive companies to manufacture glue today that in itself contributes to a more sustainable future for packaging and in fact all industries.
There are several ways for adhesive manufacturers to do this. Modern companies like Beardow Adams are continually improving their existing products and services and creating new ones that are as eco-friendly as possible whilst still fulfilling their original function.
FECIA – the Association of the European Adhesive & Sealant Industry stated: ‘Day by day, the adhesive and sealant industry is developing technologies to support a growing world population to live a better life and to use the planet’s resources responsibly and efficiently.’ Sustainable adhesives such as repulpable, renewable, recyclable, biodegradable and compostable variations are now being manufactured.
At Beardow Adams, we have a multi-organisational, cross departmental Green Team, and at our Milton Keynes’ hot melt production facilities, we are regularly manufacturing adhesives with 40-60% bio-based content which is impressively high for glue. The resins which form this content are sourced from sustainable materials. In 2019, on average, over 30% of the raw materials used by Beardow Adams to manufacture hot-melt adhesives were bio based, from renewable resources.
Sustainability in terms of manufacturing processes is also a key part of our Green Team’s agenda. Some of our most popular adhesives – hot melts – are extremely efficient across multiple industries but are also preferred for their ‘green’ benefits. Hot-melt adhesives are some of the cleanest glues to manufacture as they are fume free and produce virtually zero waste. These products in our market-proven BAMFutura™ range are clean running – facilitating the longevity of machines – and offer real cost savings through lower consumption, maintenance and inventory costs as well as an extremely versatile performance. All of which contribute to a reduced carbon footprint.
Hot-melt adhesives are 100% solids. As such, 100% of what is supplied can be used as a functional product. In comparison to other technologies such as waterborne emulsions or solvent adhesives where solids content could be typically be between 25-60%, meaning you would have 75-40% wasted material, as well as having to then dispose of unwanted solvent materials. Additionally, as no drying tunnels/process or solvent recovery is required with a hot-melt adhesive, energy consumption can be less through heating a relatively smaller sized hot melt tank in comparison to heated drying tunnels or extraction and recovery equipment.
The carbon footprint related to deliveries of hot-melt adhesives is reduced over other adhesive technologies (solvent and waterborne), where the solids content is reduced dependent on formulation. As an example, a water-based adhesive with a solids content of 50% will require twice as many deliveries to supply the same quantity of functional product. Generally, solvent-based adhesives are even lower in solids content.
Green services at Beardow Adams
Producing eco-friendly, virtually zero waste hot melts and analysing our own internal manufacturing processes across our multiple production sites to reduce energy, waste and water consumption is just a couple of the ways Beardow Adams is contributing to a greener economy. We are also always looking to increase and better our greener product and service offerings. Just some of options we can offer customers include:
Dextrin and starch adhesives – made from natural ingredients in our facility in Landskrona, Sweden
Vegan adhesive available – BAMFutura 43VE
Bio-based adhesives – glues with high bio-based content
Alkali dispersible adhesives – aids PET recycling and closed loop recycling processes
Pallet stabilisation adhesives – reduces the need for excessive plastic shrink rap
Returnable plastic pallets – utilises closed recycling loops
Paper bags/sacks available to transport adhesives rather than their plastic alternative
Adhesive optimisation services – working with customers to reduce adhesive consumption and optimise machines to reduce energy usage
If you produce packaging and are looking to work with a high-quality global adhesive manufacturer who can help you achieve your sustainability goals, get in contact today: www.beardowadams.com/contact-us.