Bioadhesives and environmentally friendly glue

The types of glue we use and their impact on the environment probably isn’t up all that high on our going green checklists, but I thought I’d delve into the world of adhesives commonly used around the home to see what’s what.

After all, if there are some big environmental issues in our lives we aren’t ready to tackle, there’s lots of little ones where we can make headway in the meantime!

What is in glue?

The composition of glue varies widely according to application, but these days for anything more heavy duty than gluing paper for kids craft projects and paper mache, they are often based on petrochemical products, meaning they have their roots in crude oil.

Some of the compounds used are polyvinyl acetate (PVA), epoxy, polyurethane and cyanoacrylate polymers. Aside the crude oil link, these substances have their own additional environmental impact.

Additionally, the substances are often dissolved in a solvent. As the solvent evaporates during the drying process, it can generate volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which may include greenhouse gases, ozone depleting substances, chemicals involved in the creation of smog and other gases hazardous to human health.

Environmentally friendly glue

I think the important thing to bear in mind with “green” glue products, also known as bioadhesives, is to not expect a product so non-toxic you could eat it (although some do exist); rather something that has less impact than mainstream products.

Home made glue

If you want to know exactly what is in the glue you use; you can make your own.

You can always use the kindergarten teacher’s favorite – flour and water; but that’s not going to cut it for jobs such as mending frames or gluing fabric. Here’s a few recipes for home-made glue you may like to try for various applications including paper, fabric, leather, ceramics, wood, glass and cardboard. Just a note for those on the road to veganism: some of the recipes contain gelatin, which is an animal product.

Commercial “green” glue

I wasn’t able to find recipes for metal plastics glue and not everyone has the time or inclination to make their own glue, so it’s good to see commercial bioadhesive products now available. I’m not going to recommend any specific products as I haven’t used any as yet, but they can be easily found via your favorite search engine using search terms such as:

green glue
earth friendly glue
eco glue
environmentally friendly glue

However, don’t be fooled by a flashy site and be wary of greenwashing. Things to look for in an earth friendly glue include

– Low or no VOC
– Petrochemical free
– Water based
Recycled or recyclable packaging
– Look for an MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) so you can determine what is actually in it.

A popular active component of eco glues is Amino Silane. According to MSDS information I was able to locate on it, it has the following properties:

Oral – Result: LD50 > 2,000 mg/kg. Remark: Very low order of toxicity.
Skin Absorption – Result: LD50 > 2,000 mg/kg. Remark: Very low order of toxicity.
Skin Direct contact – Result: Slight irritation.
Eye Direct contact – Result: Severe irritation. Remark: Causes corneal injury.
Inhalation – Result: LC50 Not acutely Toxic.
Exposure Limits – Not applicable.
Sensitization – No.
Reproductive Toxicity – No.
Mutagenicity – No.
Teratogenicity – No
Synergistic Products – None.
Ecological Information – No known applicable information.

Do also bear in mind that “green” doesn’t necessarily mean you should use gallons of it – use only what you need; and that’s a principle of green living that applies to just about everything.