The ‘greener’, the better. That is why more and more paint manufacturers list the biobased raw material content of their paints on the container and in the product information. But just how ‘green’ are these paints; what does the biobased content really say? And does this directly mean that these paints are very sustainable?
By Daphne Doemges-Engelen | SGA | Article published in SGA
First, the key question: what makes paints ‘biobased’? “In biobased paints, the petroleum-based raw materials, mainly binding agents and solvents, are partly replaced by renewable materials that grow quickly. Of course, while maintaining the quality and processing properties of the paint,” says Ron Hulst, R&D manager at Royal Van Wijhe Verf. At this producer of Wijzonol, sustainability has been a hot topic for about 15 years. Ten years ago, the company therefore launched its first biobased wall paints, at a time when this was far from common practice. CEO Marlies van Wijhe: “I have long seen climate change and the loss of biodiversity as a major threat to us as humans. As a company, we have an intrinsic drive to do good for the world. Because even in our profession, we can make a contribution on that front.”
Royal Van Wijhe Verf’s bio-based paints produced ten years ago are far from having the same composition as they do today. “Slowly but surely, more biobased raw materials are entering the market. In addition, the biobased content in raw materials is increasing. We try to use these raw materials as much as possible in the development and production of our paints,” Hulst explains.
The ‘greener’, the better. That is why more and more paint manufacturers list the biobased raw material content of their paints on the container and in the product information.
Marlies van Wijhe – CEO Royal Van Wijhe Verf
Comparng apples and oranges
But what does the biobased content of paints actually say? According to Hulst, we often compare apples to oranges on the container. “To assess and compare the biobased content of paints, you need to know how this content is calculated or measured. As there are various methodologies around, this naturally produces different results. These methods are all established according to NEN or ISO standards, but they all say something different. This makes it difficult to compare results. Royal Van Wijhe Verf has chosen to choose the only method that makes our products measurable for others, i.e. full transparency.”
According to Hulst, a positive development in this area is the possible arrival of the so-called Biomass Utilisation Factor (BUF). “This will also take circular products into account and give a clearer picture of the bio-based content. The aim is that the BUF will be widely supported at European level and give uniformity.”
Lower CO2 footprints
Is a paint with a high biobased content necessarily sustainable? “Definitely not,” states Van Wijhe. “The biobased content only tells part of the story, because it says nothing about whether the paint is environmentally harmful, for example. So, a paint with a high biobased content does not automatically equate to a paint with a lower CO2 footprint. So biobased is not necessarily ‘green’. That image is often wrongly presented now.” So there is still a whole world to be won, thinks the passionate Van Wijhe. “Many consumers do want to make a greener choice, but they also have to look at their wallets. Increasing sustainability is slow if politicians don’t want to change.” At the same time, there also needs to be a cultural shift among consumers, Hulst adds. “Unfortunately, the adagium in society is that if it’s biobased, it probably can’t be as qualitative. That is a misconception. With our biobased paints, we aim for a quality level that is at least equal, but preferably even higher, than traditional paints.”
To assess and compare the biobased content of paints, you need to know how this content is calculated or measured.
Ron van Hulst – R&D Manager Royal Van Wijhe Verf
There are several ways to determine the biobased content of paints, which is why some brands claim a higher content than others.
- The mass balance methodology: this looks at the outcomes of an entire (production) process and offsets the incoming and outgoing flow of fossil and renewable materials. As a result, the calculated percentage can also be assigned to a product that contains hardly any renewable raw materials.
- Carbon dating: based on the content, it determines what percentage of the material consists of raw materials younger than 10 years. These are the vegetable crops, or renewable raw materials. Here it is very decisive what is offered as a sample: only the binding agent, binding agent and solvents or, for example, the total paint. The measurement method, however, is always identical.
- TOC or TC: the biobased content is determined as a percentage of only the organic carbon in the paint ( binding agents and solvents), or as a percentage of the total paint including pigments, fillers, etcetera.