As the importance of sustainability continues to grow across industries, leading adhesives and sealants producers are increasing their focus on developing products that will reduce the carbon footprint of their own production activities, as well as those of their end users.
According to a new report from the Freedonia Group, Global Adhesives & Sealants, this is having a growing impact on product mix in numerous segments of the global adhesives and sealants market, from packaging to footwear. Below, are a few of the key areas of innovation in sustainable adhesives and sealants.
Recyclable and recycled adhesives
The adhesives used to make many packaging items are typically non-recyclable. As a result, manufacturers have increasingly turned to recycling compatible adhesives (RCAs).
- RCA’s are hot-melt, pressure-sensitive adhesives for paper-to-paper bonding that degrade into relatively large particles during the pulping process.
- The particles can then be removed via slotted screens and flotation processes. RCAs can enable adhesive removal efficiencies as high as 99%.
Additionally, adhesives manufacturers are developing products that are amenable to plastic film recycling processes.
Biodegradable adhesives are another means to improve the sustainability of packaging and other products. Such adhesives, which are generally made from natural substances, are formulated to be broken down by bacteria and other organisms into carbon dioxide (CO2), water, and other natural gases.
Biodegradable adhesives typically find use in packaging, hygiene products, envelopes, and medical devices.
Compostable adhesives are biodegradable adhesives that degrade in the controlled conditions of a compost pile (typically at an industrial composting facility). Once broken down, the remaining carbon dioxide and other natural substances enrich the compost soil.
To be certified as compostable, at least 90% of the adhesive must decompose after 90 days into CO2 and water vapor. The remaining portion of the adhesive must not impair the quality of the compost soil since the soil must be able to support plant life.
In the U.S., the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) is responsible for officially certifying a product as compostable.
Repulpable adhesives dissolve completely in water during paper repulping operations without leaving a contaminating residue on the paper fiber. These adhesives, which often incorporate acrylic acid, are typically used in corrugated boxes, envelopes, and other paper-based packaging.
Renewable or biobased
Renewable and biobased adhesives are made from renewable materials (such as plants) and contain no petroleum products. Typical renewable/biobased adhesives are made from such substances as sugarcane, cellulose, proteins (e.g., casein), and starches.
Adhesives made from renewable materials are often favored for single-use packaging, as they enable the packaging to be more easily recycled or decomposed.
To learn more, the Global Adhesives & Sealants report is available here. It forecasts for 2025 through 2030 for global adhesives and sealants demand in metric tons and current U.S. dollars (including inflation) at the global, regional, and country levels. The Freedonia Group offers reliable, unbiased industry market research.