How Soy Biobased Products Benefit the Environment and Worker Health
A partnership between America’s soybean farmers and the Sherwin-Williams Company received the 2011 Presidential Green Chemistry Award from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The honor recognizes the development of an innovative new paint formulation that utilizes soybean oil and recycled plastic bottles (PET) and reduces volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by 60 percent.
Sherwin-Williams, with soybean checkoff funding and technical support from USB, developed water-based acrylic alkyd paints with low VOCs that can be made from soybean oil, PET and acrylics. Oil-based "alkyd" paints have high levels of VOCs that become air pollutants as the paint dries. Previous acrylic paints contained lower VOCs, but could not match the performance of alkyds. These new paints combine the performance benefits of alkyds and low VOC content of acrylics. The soybean oil helps to promote film formation, gloss, flexibility, and cure.
In 2010, Sherwin-Williams manufactured enough of these new paints to eliminate over 800,000 pounds of VOCs. The company has used 320,000 pounds of soybean oil, 250,000 pounds of PET, and eliminated 1,000 barrels of oil.
Soy-Backed Carpet Partnership Helps Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks
Yellowstone National Park’s problem with plastic bottles launched an innovative new partnership to use the bottles in American-made soy-backed carpet. It also created a new source of funding for environmental projects at Yellowstone.
With a long history of using biobased products, Yellowstone staff turned to USB to find out if any biobased manufacturers would use the 43 tons of bottles that the public leaves at Yellowstone each year even though bringing plastic bottles into the park is discouraged. Yellowstone had an extensive recycling program, but staff was frustrated to learn that bottles were shipped overseas to be made into other products. They wanted to find an American company to use the bottles.
To help find a solution, USB reached out to Universal Textile Technologies (UTT), a maker of carpet backing systems that use soybean oil to replace petroleum, and Signature Crypton® Carpet . As a result, UTT, Signature and Aqualfil USA Fiber Company have entered into partnerships with Yellowstone & Grand Tetons National Parks. The companies purchased the bottles and use them to make the Yellowstone Collection of carpets that also use 100 percent recycled content nylon. For every yard of this Yellowstone Collection carpet sold, Signature and its partners donate 50 cents to the Yellowstone Park Foundation to help protect and preserve one of the nation’s most pristine natural resources.
Here’s what soy biobased products users are saying about health and environmental benefits…
“What’s better for the environment is also better for people. We want to do this for the safety of our employees and park visitors, as well as our environment…We didn’t feel good about using toxic chemicals on the same tables where parents were feeding peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to their kids.”
~ Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore National Park Chief of Facility Management Chris Case
“It’s nice to work with formaldehyde-free material when fabricating our various products. When all hardwood plywood was made with formaldehyde adhesive, the formaldehyde fumes would collect to such an extent that the normal exhaust fans couldn’t handle them. We literally had to open all the doors in the building to air it out…even in the winter. The fumes were so strong it actually made your eyes water.”
~ Hopewell Craft Company Vice President Jerry Ellis who made cabinets for Fort Lee Army’s 262nd Quartermaster Battalion
“It’s comforting to know we work in a building that has better, healthier indoor air quality”
~ Capt. Johnique Bowers who works in the communication equipment room at Fort Lee
“We were amazed at how well the soybean products worked without a chemical smell, and how they didn’t harm the skin when they came into contact with it.”
~ Dorchester County, South Carolina Director of Recycling/Education Carolyn Tomlinson
“These products were as good, or better than the products we had been using. The asphalt cleaner worked a lot better for tar and road patch removal. Our old product had to sit for awhile to work, and gave off bad fumes.”
~ Dorchester County, South Carolina Director of Fleet Maintenance Ernie Knight
“At Grand Canyon National Park, we are charged with the important task of protecting historic buildings, archeological sites, endangered species, and the most famous views in the world. Eliminating harmful toxic chemicals and replacing them with biobased products that are derived from the natural world, directly upholds our mission and benefits human health as well.”
~ Grand Canyon Environmental Protection Specialist Deirdre Hanners
“Ford is focusing on finding innovative ways to make our vehicles more eco-friendly. Soy-based rubber provides superior stretchability and serves as a renewable resource that helps reduce carbon dioxide emissions from raw materials.”
~ Ford Technical Leader in Elastomeric Polymers Cynthia Flanigan
Health Organizations Encourage the Use of Biobased Products
“The American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest Health House™ Program supports the Federal biobased label and the use of biobased products that promote improved indoor air quality by reducing harmful emissions compared to traditional products. These choices may include, but are not limited to, cleaning supplies, personal care items, and construction materials.”
~ President & CEO, American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest Harold Wimmer
“Biobased products have the potential to help asthma sufferers, by eliminating many petroleum-based asthma triggers.”
~ President, Breathe DC - United Medical Center Foundation Rolando Andrewn
Commercial and industrial users can ask for a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) (also known as PSDS, Product Safety Data Sheet) to help evaluate products.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Children Health website provides information on pollutants of special concern for children.