As more product categories are going green, adhesives are also evolving. These include adhesives for wallpaper, wood products, glues and latex. Green adhesives are manufactured from sustainable raw materials in an environmentally friendly process and have low volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. Among many of the industry trends, low- to no-VOC are becoming more important for both manufacturers and consumers. Specifically, standards for evaluating sustainability by the wallcoverings industry have been established. Also, containers that consist of recyclable materials are being utilized.
There is no doubt that adhesives have an impact on the environment. When assessing adhesives, it is necessary to consider their impact across the entire environmental spectrum. That includes factors such as where the adhesive is manufactured and where the raw materials for the adhesive have been sourced. Also important is how the adhesive is manufactured and wastes that are created during production. There are many benefits for a manufacturer to go green, like fewer controlled raw materials to handle, lower transportation costs and improved worker safety conditions.
VOCs, toxic chemicals and odor are words that can be used to describe many adhesives and sealants on the market. VOCs can be found in any indoor environment and come from a number of sources. High VOCs have the potential to cause sickness and adversely affect air quality. Green adhesives have fewer VOCs than their regular counterparts and are also better for human health. There are adhesives and primers on the market that have zero VOCs and bring together the best of environmentally safe properties with the high performance required by commercial installers.
“When assessing adhesives, it is necessary to consider their impact across the entire environmental spectrum.”
Performance is an important characteristic of adhesives. As manufacturers develop new and greener adhesive alternatives, they are tackling the new performance challenges that come with changing the composition.
Water-based adhesives are becoming more popular. More than half the global demand for all adhesives in 2011 was for water-based products. This demand should increase in the next few years as the demand for solvent-based adhesives continues to decline. Water-based adhesives offer many advantages and are suited for high-surface-tension materials like paper or porous surfaces.
The adhesive industry in the United States is continually being reshaped by environmental laws. Adhesives now must meet more strict VOC content limits from certain geographic regions, including California (South Coast Air Quality Management District Rule 1168 and California Specification 01350).
The adhesive industry is also being shaped by growing environmental awareness among consumers, specifically the hospitality and healthcare markets. As consumers become increasingly interested in what they can do to help the environment they are drawn to products that can claim they are green. They are willing to take the time to research a product before they make a purchase. A smaller percentage of consumers will make their product selection choice based solely on green alternatives.
Beyond the overall adhesives category, the wallcovering adhesives segment has gone through exciting changes and has taken great strides toward environmental sustainability. The Wallcoverings Association (WA) is a nonprofit trade association representing wallcovering manufacturers, distributors and suppliers to the industry. This association has worked with third parties in the development of WA Sustainability Standard NSF/ANSI 342. This standard evaluates wallcoverings across the entire life cycle. It establishes a comprehensive approach to the evaluation of environmentally preferable and sustainable wallcovering products, including adhesives. With a consistent and objective approach in place within the wallcoverings industry, stronger green adhesives are required.
A key concern within the wallcovering industry is mold and mildew. To address that, the industry is developing permeable wallcoverings to allow moisture to migrate from the wall cavity into the room so it can be evacuated by the HVAC system. In response to this concern, manufacturers have taken the initiative to develop adhesives that are permeable and have advanced mildew protection.
A major U.S. and international trend in the retail sector is the movement toward more nonwoven wallcoverings. Nonwoven wallcoverings are made with a backing that has substantial structural integrity. Not only are they easier to install, but they can be removed in full sheets in conjunction with specially designed adhesives that are specifically engineered to work with the nonwoven backing. When you want to remove the wallpaper, you can easily peel it off from the corner and the wallpaper literally unzips from the wall. That has been validated by the IGI, an international wall-covering association.
Green is a permanent fixture of our society. The future market value of going green is in the billions of dollars. It has become a way of life for companies across all business spectrums. Adhesives may have only a small portion of the “green” market; however, by understanding their role, we can understand “green” within a much larger context. APC
Gerald M. Russo is the president and CEO of Roman Decorating Products. He has been a board member and officer of the Wallcovering Association (WA) for more than nine years and is a board member of the Coatings Research Group Inc. (research and ISO-certified testing lab). Russo is an officer/board member and purchasing committee member of the Guild CPO (raw materials buying group) and serves as an advisory board member of the Paint & Decorating Retailers Association (PDRA). He has served as the past associate chair for both the National Guild of Professional Paperhangers (NGPP) and the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America(PDCA) and as a committee member for the Wallcovering Association on mold and mildew and has spoken across the United States and Europe as an expert speaker on the topic. Russo is a vendor advisory board member for a national paint chain and national dealer buying group, and he is the recipient of the 2006 Allman Award, granted as a lifetime achievement award by the Wall-covering Association.