What is Bio-based Chemistry?

Bio-based chemicals are made from renewable resources such as plants. According to the USDA, bio-based products are “derived from plants and other renewable agricultural, marine and forestry materials. Bio-based products generally provide an alternative to conventional petroleum-derived products and include a diverse range of offerings such as lubricants, detergents, inks, fertilizers, and bioplastics.” Once you understand their basic concept, it’s easy to see that they are superior to petroleum-derived chemicals. 

How it Works

Bio-based processes use feedstocks that are produced from renewable biological sources. In many cases, these feedstocks have the same or similar functional properties of the material that they replace but have the added benefit of sustainability.

Here are some real-world applications of bio-based chemistry.

  1. Fuel – “More than 98% of gasoline in the United States contains some ethanol, a renewable, domestically produced fuel made from different plant materials. The United States is the world’s No. 1 ethanol producer by volume, thanks in part to large U.S. corn harvests.” (from Energy.gov)
  2. Makeup and skincare: nail polish remover created from fermented corn
  3. Detergents and cleaning products

From Detergo, “Kreussler, the German specialist for textile care, is one of the pioneers of real sustainability, thinking of ecological impact already when it was the opposite of hipness. Many decades ago, they were the first company producing detergents for industrial use to ban phosphates completely – as well as borates, perborates, APEO, EDTA, and NTA. Searching for the best performing ingredient with the smallest ecological impact is an important part of the R&D work done at Kreussler’s headquarters in Germany. Focusing on sustainability – and its pairing with optimal cleaning power – long before it became a buzzword, the company has very early developed a broad perspective regarding what exactly real sustainability must mean.”

We asked our Kreussler GMbH team for a little behind-the-scenes information on Kreussler’s Textile Chemistry process. We heard the following from Dr. Manfred Seiter, Technical Director of Kreussler Textile Care, Dr. Cord Meyer, Head of Research & Development at Kreussler Textile Care, and Katja Pryss, Manager Marketing Communication for Kreussler Textile Care:

Kreussler does use some plant-derived raw goods in our products, for example, wheat protein hydrolysate (which replaced the former animal-derived collagen) in our Lanadol range, starch, citric acid glycerine as well as some raw material derived from olive and soy oil. Of course “renewable raw materials” sounds very sustainable/ecological. But what we consider as very important regarding the whole life cycle of raw material is that it must not necessarily be the better alternative if the material is a plant or bio-derived instead of industrially made which is transferable to other products like soy etc.

Kreussler chemists weigh their options to make the best products in the most efficient manner possible. There are many cases in which a product using a plant or bio-derived substance is not doing its job as efficiently as the same product using a substance made in a lab that was engineered to be as efficient as possible – if you have to use ten times as much of the “green” detergent to get the same results, the “non-green” version is more sustainable in the end. 

We focus on quality by utmost efficiency and minimal input while obtaining optimal biodegradability to have the least possible environmental impact. If this can be done with renewable raw materials as well as with using petroleum-based ones, it’s great – but if it is not we prefer the more efficient alternative. 

As you know, a lot of the Kreussler innovations replace environmentally bad solutions with ones far better for the environment as well as for human health, e.g. Lanadol wet cleaning and SYSTEMK4 replacing PERC and the new OTTALIN OptiBleach replacing chlorine bleach. So we definitely are scoring in the sustainability area while not necessarily or on principle using plant or bio-based substances. 

By using the Rhine River’s natural heat to warm our buildings and installing solar panels on top of the new building to use that energy, we try to think sustainably in a more general sense than “just” regarding the products themselves.

Does Kreussler see trends in the industry to move to or away from plant-based/renewable products? We would not say that we generally see a trend there. The whole issue of sustainability, including the products themselves and the broader perspective, is definitely much more in focus in the industry targeting private end consumers – who, incidentally, are in many cases willing to pay considerably more money for “green” products – in very sharp contrast to the B2B business.

The science of bio-based chemistry is a big topic – we hope that you’ve learned a little about it and how we at Kreussler incorporated the most innovative processes into our research and product development.