Sustainable and environmentally friendly adhesives. Here’s what you need to know.

Consumers and businesses increasingly demand products that support the needs of the environment, whilst still fulfilling their core purpose. Governments, meanwhile, are introducing laws and regulations aimed at reducing the amount of plastic used in packaging – often in the form of plastic taxes.

Adhesives, whilst only comprising a small percentage of any end product, are under the spotlight as part of the move towards sustainability, with companies searching for eco-friendly bonding solutions.

How do traditional adhesive technologies work?

Natural glues such as starch-based adhesives have been used for many years and are still commonly found in paper and corrugated board industries, as they work particularly well with porous substrates and surfaces. Because they are derived from renewable resources – specifically, the natural carbohydrates drawn from vegetables or plants such as potatoes and corn, amongst others – they offer an efficient and readily available bonding option.

Synthetic adhesives rely on man-made polymers, and whilst being more expensive compared to natural glues, offer enhanced versatility, performance, consistency, and customisation – allowing for application specific formulations. This has seen the proliferation of such glues across countless industries in recent decades. 

What types of new environmentally friendly adhesives are there?

When searching for the latest green bonding solution many terms such as eco-friendly, biodegradable or compositable are interchangeably used. Whilst they may all contribute to the overall sustainability of a product or application – there are, however, key differences between them – including their composition and even their availability.  

- Renewable or bio-based adhesives

Adhesives which are formulated using a percentage of raw materials from plants and other forestry materials – most often plant resins or rubbers – are increasingly in demand, helping businesses to reduce their carbon footprint. 

- Recyclable adhesives

With hot-melt adhesives, unused quantities can be recycled back into similar products and although not always practical, if there is the ability to remove the adhesive from its applied surface this too may be recycled back into similar product types. Energy can also be recoverable through energy recovery systems, if so desired.

It is important to remember, that the percentage of adhesive used is often minimal in comparison with the overall construction. As such, the direct impact on the recycling or re-processing of materials is minimal if at all noticeable.

Another important consideration when choosing an adhesive is its ability to bond with recycled carboard or paper: recycled materials have lower surface tension - as each time paper is recycled, fibres become shorter - making it harder to form durable bonds

- Biodegradable adhesives

Biodegradable adhesives break down naturally, overtime, with the help of micro-organisms such as bacteria – turning the glue into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass – thus preventing microplastics from entering the environment. Investment in waste management systems is also unnecessary. 

Unfortunately, the technology to formulate and manufacture a functional biodegradable hot-melt adhesive to a commercial scale is not yet fully developed.

- Compostable adhesives

Compostable adhesives, unlike biodegradable glues, breakdown within a controlled composting process – and within a much shorter timescale. They also prevent microplastics entering the environment, and instead help to enrich the soil through natural waste. As with biodegradable adhesives, the technology for a compostable hot-melt adhesive is too not yet fully developed to a practical or commercial scale.

Eco-friendly adhesives from Beardow Adams

Emerging sustainable raw materials combined with the latest formulation technologies, help our laboratory technicians lead the development of sustainable adhesives for many applications and industries. Here is some recent adhesive ‘wins’ that have helped our customers on their environmental journey. 

- Bio-based adhesives

We have a variety of industry proven adhesives with a range of bio-based contents to suit most hot-melt adhesive applications, spanning across multiple markets, including:

- Packaging
- Labelling
- Filters
- Bookbinding and print finishing
- Converting
- PSA - including both self-adhesive tapes and self-adhesive labels
- Mattress construction and pocket springs
- Assembly applications

- Vegan adhesives

Our vegan hot-melt grade – BAMFutura™ 43VE – has already proved successful with several large food and drink manufacturers. This product is a V-Label and FDA-approved packaging adhesive that’s ideal for the likes of case and carton sealing, as it’s guaranteed to perform well on plain, coated or corrugated card, in particular.

- Alkali washable adhesives

Our alkali washable adhesives support the circular economy and the reduction of single use plastic in the bottling industry. Bottles can be re-used up to 15 times thanks to the hot melt being removed completely during a wash off process.

- Adhesives for pallet stabilisation 

Using adhesives for pallet stabilisation allows your products to be safely transported without the need for expensive layer pads and an excessive amount of plastic shrink wrap. This practice offers a great opportunity to reduce material costs and plastic waste. Beardow Adams can offer a choice of adhesives to suit your requirements and bond strength to suit the need of your packed load, and can be both hot melt, or water based adhesives.

Sustainable bonding tailored to you 

Maintaining a close relationship with our customers helps our laboratory team to test substrates and to advise on the ideal sustainable adhesive for your application. We are constantly developing new grades – taking advantage raw material developments – and working on sustainable projects from around the world, so if you have an application that requires an environmentally friendly adhesive, get in touch today. 

Send an email to or visit the contact page.


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