Epoxy resin is widely used for adhering materials, making molds, creating surface coatings, doing DIY projects, and whatnot. But little did you know, the environmental impact of resin is concerning.
The Environmental Price Of Using Resin
Resin Introduces Harmful Byproducts
VOC stands for ‘Volatile Organic Compound’ which in simple words refers to organic compounds that evaporate into thin air. Not all VOCs are bad but most are.
Exposure to some of the bad VOCs can result in serious irritation and damage to your kidney and liver. What’s even worse is that they can cause cancer in innocent animals.
The synthetic resin industry emits a large share of aromatics and oxygenated VOCs as byproducts through chemical processes and the burning of fossil fuels. Not only the industry, but the resin itself also emits VOCs when you create the mixture and pollute the air around you.
Resin Production Uses Fossil Fuels
Epoxy resin is a plastic-based resin whose raw materials are natural gas and oil. Fossil fuels being non-renewable and emitting greenhouse gasses when burned makes it a lose-lose situation for all.
Although companies are slowly moving towards plant-based materials and renewable energy for the production of resins, it is still not the case fully.
Resin Can Harm Wildlife
There are two ways resin can end up in an open environment and possess a threat to wildlife and domestic animals. As a gas or as a liquid.
When resins are produced, it emits toxic gases and liquid. If the factory is located near a forest or woods, the air will get polluted and any leakage in the sewer system can result in contaminated water for the wild animals.
Also when you mix a resin with hardener, let’s say at your home, it will emit VOCs. These VOCs can cause stomach upsets and organ blockages for your pets when into contact.
Resin Is Difficult To Dispose Of
Disposal of resin is not easy per se. The containers of resin will always have leftovers inside even when it feels empty. You cannot rinse and wash the container away using a sewerage system either otherwise it could come into contact with animals and plants; potentially hurting them.
The tools used for crafting cannot be disposed of together with household waste because it is not bio-degradable. The only environmentally safe option that remains is a professional disposal service or a center that takes resin waste in.
What To Replace Traditional Epoxy Resin With
The best eco-friendly alternative to traditional epoxy resin is bio-based epoxy.
We came across EcoPoxy resin, which is marketed as “made from soybeans” and is the market’s favorite.
What makes EcoPoxy different is they have put full focus on using renewable energy and their final product doesn’t leave any trace that this product is made from mostly bio-based materials.
Their FlowCast Kit is suitable for thick pours but there is also UVPoxy for thin coating layers, yet to be made widely available in the market.
What Makes Bio-Based Resin Environmentally Friendly
Reduced Reliance On Fossil Fuels
Bio-based resins use renewable and plant-based raw materials such as starches, and vegetable oils instead of petrochemical materials like natural gas or oil. With that, production becomes less reliant on fossil fuels.
It is worth noting that the use of bio-based materials does not guarantee that epoxy will be 100% free of fossil fuels. Some parts of the production process could use petrochemical ingredients. Green resin companies are working their way up toward this big goal.
Fewer Harmful Byproducts
The feedstock used in bio-based resins produces less-toxic byproducts in the production process compared to traditional resin. It is not fully carbon neutral but the difference it makes is already pretty huge.
On top of that, the carbon that is captured by the plants is sequestered unlike the carbon from fossil fuels that are released and persisted in the environment for years.
Materials like starches and plant-based oils, which are most commonly used in the production of bio-based resins, are relatively safe, non-toxic, and degrade in the environment naturally. Disposal of these resins is easier.
Whereas epichlorohydrin, bisphenol-A (BPA), and similar petrochemical raw materials used on traditional resins are derived from natural resources and are not biodegradable. You will have to go to a dedicated disposal center to dispose of them otherwise you risk hurting sea and land animals.
The Tradeoffs Of Using Plant-Based Resins
The Cost Is More; Sometimes Double
Not quality but the production cost of plant-based resin is what keeps this from widespread adoption. It is not cheap and sometimes you end up paying double.
Technologies used for the production of these resins are not well-established by a lot of companies. It requires more resources, expertise, and a different set of equipment, which adds up quickly to the final price.
The demand for environmentally friendly resin is still on the lower side and thus the companies cannot help steer the price up to keep their businesses operational.
Might Not Be Suited For All Applications
Bio-based resins are biodegradable meaning they are more prone to breaking down. While it is certainly good for the environment, it might not be a good fit if you want to use it to craft something that is going to be used in high-stress situations.
That doesn’t mean that you should completely ditch bio-based resins. Companies are fully aware of different usage and they normally produce different versions of their resins because of that. Some are thick, durable, and resistant to high-temperature, while some are only good for coating or handcrafting.
You have to read the usage section of the product before committing so that you don’t end up buying a bottle of resin for 3d printing when you wanted to buy one for molds.
Requires Larger Land Area For Production
Bio-based resins are made from renewable resources like corn, sugarcane, and other agricultural crops which need to be produced in larger quantities before they can be fed into the production process. More corps mean more land area.
On one hand, this is taking up space that could have been used for other things, and on the other hand, the cost of managing such a large area drives up the total cost making average consumers question whether they should adopt these eco-friendly resins at all.