BioStripe® a soy-biobased traffic paint, is helping an Alaskan community beautify its sidewalks, streets, and, importantly, add colorful educational messages on its storm drains that feed into the Chena and Yukon Rivers.
The rivers are home to the world-famous Alaskan King Salmon. Residents work alongside the Tanana Valley Watershed Association (TVWA) each year to bring awareness to the storm drains flowing directly into the Chena River. In 2021, residents decided to take advantage of the environmental benefits offered in the soy-based products from a nearly 60-year-old Ohio company, Aexcel Corporation. The United Soybean Board initially funded research with Polynt-Reichhold that paved the way for Aexcel’s products. The use of a soy in Aexcel’s products reduces harmful microparticles, such as Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) that could make their way into water reserves through storm drain runoffs. The company continues to work with Polynt-Reichhold on additional research on the use of soybean oil.
“It is gratifying for U.S. soybean growers to see urban communities, such as Fairbanks, and water quality benefit from the soy-biobased innovation BioStripe, said USB Director and Innovation & Technology Coordinator Matt Gast, who’s a soybean grower from North Dakota. “Through our soy checkoff, we continue to partner with sustainability-minded researchers and companies to develop new products that are better for people and the planet. U.S. soybean growers are committed to our vision of partnering to deliver sustainable soy solutions to every life, every day.”
Use of soybean oil qualifies BioStripe® for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified Biobased Product Label. That made it an easy choice for the Tanana Valley Watershed Association.
Jewelz Barker, an adviser to TVWA, has nearly 20 years of experience on waterfront development projects. She also volunteers her time working to preserve the watersheds of Interior Alaska. She notes that the city of Fairbanks uses the demonstrations to raise awareness. “It helps us to take more care of the environment and pay attention to how we’re managing our waste streams,” Barker says.
Barker also notes that the goal is to make citizens environmentally thoughtful when around infrastructure that feeds into wildlife habitats.
Aexcel supplied the city with gallons of the product in various custom colors. Then, residents went to work. Messages such as “rivers lead to the ocean” and “protect our salmon” began to adorn the city’s downtown. The entire community, from children to professional artists, got involved. The annual storm drain art contest is a big draw for the city, and the use of an environmentally friendly product highlights the city’s commitment to sustainability.
Aexcel Director Adam Copel hopes that other environmentally-friendly cities will follow Fairbanks’ lead. “We’ve been very involved in places like Alaska,” Copel says. “BioStripe® was used to re-stripe parts of Anchorage after a 2018 earthquake damaged the city. The citizens there understand what we’re trying to do and want to be environmentally safe and sound.”
Copel believes that neighboring cities value using safe products like BioStripe® to shrink their environmental footprint. He notes that the product is readily available via Aexcel’s online commerce and will be expanding to retail stores soon.
“Cities understand they have storm drains and other infrastructure that affects wildlife. Such products like BioStripe® beautify or mark this infrastructure while protecting the nature that we all value.”
TVWA, for its part, will continue its art initiative in the future. It recently received a Bloomberg Art Grant to continue raising awareness in an environmentally-friendly way. Given the positive feedback from its relationship with Aexcel and BioStripe®, Copel is optimistic about future planning with the city on their asphalt infrastructure. The city has also expressed a desire to continue its storm drain contest initiative with Aexcel moving forward.
In addition to BioStripe®, Aexcel also offers BioSealcoat® and BioSEALSAFE™, both soy-biobased sealers for parking lots, driveways, trails, and more.
Because of the potential for biobased products to create new markets for soybeans, U.S. soybean farmers have invested millions of dollars to research, test and promote biobased products. Much of this work was done through the United Soybean Board, which is composed of 78 U.S. soybean farmers appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to invest soybean checkoff funds. As stipulated in the Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Services has oversight responsibilities for the soybean checkoff.