Biobased Adhesives: is it a question of environmental cost vs financial cost?

Increased cost is one of the barriers to launching biobased adhesives and this is something the team here at Structural Adhesives Ltd have been discussing recently. Currently, biobased polymers are slightly more expensive than their petrochemical counterparts and so the questions many manufacturers are facing is ‘will my customers be willing to pay a bit more for a product that has a lower carbon footprint?’. For some customers the answer is a quick no. Other customers, usually the ones with sustainability and environmental impact at the very heart of their company policies are more open to consideration.

We are starting to see a shift in tide, the proportion of customers falling into the second category is swiftly rising. With the UK announcing a target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 many businesses are following suit and setting targets of their own in-line with the government legislation. Switching to more biobased products is one such way in which business could reduce their carbon emissions and meet their sustainability targets. As well as meeting internal targets it is likely that as we draw closer to 2050 the government will introduce incentives for business to reduce emissions. This could come in one of many forms such as introducing tax relief on ‘greener products’ which would make biobased products more attractive commercially. 

Converting renewable plant matter into biobased polymers for adhesives involves complex processes and has a higher production cost, this is the main reason that petrochemical based adhesives offer a slight cost saving present. However, biopolymer production is still a relatively new industry and advances in efficiency are being made rapidly, thus production cost is beginning to decrease.  Furthermore, the price of petroleum is already subject to sudden and dramatic changes which is of great disadvantage to businesses and this situation will only become worse as the supply of available fossil fuels decreases. Many are predicting that we are nearing the stage where biobased adhesives will be as economically viable as petrochemical adhesives if not more so.