Epoxy resins are the most popular resins of our time. This can be attributed to the fact that they can be used for a variety of purposes including adhesives and flooring.
But with more and more people trying to live sustainably, there is more curiosity around the eco-friendliness of these resins.
As such, today’s post is going to address all the sustainability concerns users of epoxy resins usually have.
Is epoxy resin biodegradable?
Yes, epoxy resin is biodegradable. On the other hand, thermoset, polyurethane, and fiberglass/polyester resins are not.
How does epoxy resin biodegrade?
Epoxy resin usually biodegrades through the action of two bacteria – Ochrobactrum anthropi and Rhodococcus rhodochrous. However, this process only takes place if both bacteria are present in the resin at the same time – they work in synergy.
And even then, certain amounts of epoxy resin can be toxic to these two bacteria.
What’s more, this process usually takes a long time, especially when it comes to large amounts of epoxy resin. That’s why a lot of people still don’t consider this type of resin biodegradable.
How long does epoxy resin take to decompose?
Since epoxy resin isn’t made of 100% organic matter, it can’t fully decompose, even though it is biodegradable.
However, eco-resin and silicone resin can fully decompose and are compostable.
In fact, they usually take only 5 to 7 days to fully decompose.
Can epoxy resin be recycled?
Yes, epoxy resins can be recycled, particularly the modern ones which use Recyclamine as a hardener.
These resins are usually recycled by melting, a process that makes it easy to separate the resin from the hardener and reuse it.
However, traditional epoxy resins used other hardeners that made them harder to recycle.
They would usually be recycled mechanically by crushing them, a process that generally failed to separate the resin from the hardener. As such, even after all that processing, the resulting material couldn’t be reused – instead it ended up in landfills.
That’s why others opt for an alternative recycling process – pyrolysis. This is a process that converts epoxy resins to fuel.
How do you properly dispose of leftover epoxy resin?
The best way to dispose of leftover epoxy resin is by recycling it. If it uses Recyclamine as a hardener, just take it to any recycling facility that accepts other types of plastic.
However, if you are trying to get rid of traditional epoxy resin, you should take it to a pyrolysis plant. There are some things to keep in mind if you opt for the pyrolysis route though.
For one, this process can release harmful chemicals into the air and should be done under strict regulations. Beyond that, resin recycled this way can’t be reused – it’s usually degraded. On the other hand, the recycling process for Recyclamine epoxy resin retains its quality.
In fact, this recycled resin can even be used to coat sports equipment and create the structural components of vehicle doors.
If you’re just an individual consumer of epoxy resins though, there’s a chance that you’ll be turned away by recycling facilities. As such, you may have to resort to throwing out your epoxy resin.
Fortunately, this is not a complicated process. In fact, if you’re trying to get rid of cured epoxy resin, you can throw it out with the rest of your trash – it’s not considered hazardous waste.
When it comes to uncured epoxy resin though, it’s safer to drop it off at your local waste disposal service – it is a hazardous waste and its hardener is corrosive.
Is epoxy resin bad for the environment?
Yes, epoxy resin is bad for the environment. For one, the production of epoxy resins is linked to refining crude oil – a process that pollutes the environment. Beyond that, a lot of epoxy resin ends up in landfills. And even when this resin is recycled through pyrolysis, it further releases chemicals into the air. Ultimately, from its production to its disposal, there is nothing that makes epoxy resin good for the environment.
Is epoxy resin toxic?
Whether or not epoxy resin is toxic depends on which organism is exposed to it and the kind of exposure experienced.
For instance, if a human ingests epoxy resin, the risk of health effects is minimal – you would have to ingest large amounts to experience anything drastic. But if you apply it to your skin, it can irritate it, even giving rise to toxic eczema and allergic contact dermatitis.
This is particularly common with resins that contain hardeners with aliphatic polyamines. These particular amines are highly alkaline and can cause lesions and burns.
There is some good news though – since epoxy resins aren’t volatile, inhaling them doesn’t usually cause any respiratory problems. However, these resins are known to adversely affect the health of aquatic life exposed to them. As such, you should always keep them away from water sources.
What are the disadvantages of using epoxy resin?
The major disadvantages of epoxy resins include:
- Takes a long time to cure
- Is expensive
- Can yellow when exposed to excessive sunlight
- Can trap dust and air bubbles
What eco-friendly alternatives are there to epoxy resin?
If you need to use resin regularly but are trying to live more sustainably, there are several epoxy resin alternatives you could opt for. These include:
Available in a variety of colors and finishes, this plant-based resin is great for crafting. It is even certified by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a BioPreferred Product.
- Seal-Once eco-friendly wood sealer
If you predominantly use epoxy resin as a wood sealer, this product from the Seal-Once company can help you out.
- CCR Bio resin
Made of 30% biobased material, this is yet another eco-friendly alternative to epoxy resin. It can be used for casting and crafting and is also certified as a BioPreferred Product.
Go green or go home!
Ultimately, the best way to protect the environment is to stop using epoxy resin altogether. Instead, just choose one eco-friendly alternative and stick with it!