What are bio-based chemicals?

You may have heard the term “bio-based chemicals” but really didn’t understand what it meant. We’ll dive into the phrase “bio-based” and explain what it means as well as how it applies to our bio-based dry cleaning solvent.

How are bio-based products better for the planet?

The key environmental benefits of manufacturing and using bio-based products are:

1) reducing the use of fossil fuels 

2) reducing the associated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions

3) bio-based chemicals are renewable resources

4) they have a cleaner manufacturing process with less waste

5) It takes less energy to produce bio-based chemicals than petrochemicals

A few terms to know before we dig into the details:

Bio-based chemical: A chemical derived or synthesized in whole or in part from biological materials. 

Biodegradability: A quantitative measure of the extent to which biological agents, especially bacteria, can decompose a material.

Crude oil: Crude oil is a mixture of hydrocarbons that formed from plants and animals that lived millions of years ago. Crude oil is a fossil fuel, and it exists in liquid form in underground pools or reservoirs, in tiny spaces within sedimentary rocks, and near the surface in tar (or oil) sands. Petroleum products are fuels made from crude oil and other hydrocarbons contained in natural gas. Petroleum products can also be made from coal, natural gas, and biomass. It is non-renewable.

Renewable Resource: A raw material or energy form, such as agricultural products or solar energy that can be replenished at a rate similar to the rate at which it is used.

USDA Certified Biobased Product: A biobased product that has met the BioPreferred® Program’s criteria to display the USDA Certified Biobased Product certification mark.

Back to our question: what are bio-based chemicals? Bio-based chemicals derived from plants. Traditional chemicals are petroleum-derived called petrochemicals

From the USDA, “Bio-based products are derived from plants and other renewable agricultural, marine, and forestry materials and provide an alternative to conventional petroleum-derived products. Bio-based products include diverse categories such as lubricants, cleaning products, inks, fertilizers, and bioplastics.”

The bio-based products sector impacted every state in the nation, not just those where agriculture is the main industry. In two years, it contributed $459 billion to the United States economy, up 17% and employed 4.65 million workers. It was estimated that each job in the bio-based industry supported 1.78 jobs in other sectors of the economy. [from the USDA BioPreferred Bio-Based Products Economic Analysis Report]

In the dry cleaning industry, SOLVONK4 [the solvent in our SYSTEMK4 dry cleaning process] is the only bio-based solvent. While PERC had excellent cleaning properties, its environmental impact has proven to be detrimental.

Are bio-based products biodegradable?

Yes and no. Bio-based doesn’t mean the same thing as biodegradable. Bio-based products can be biodegradable but not all of them are.

However, our bio-based SOLVONK4 [the solvent in SYSTEMK4] is biodegradable as well as bio-based. We’ve met the USDA Certified BioPreferred® Program’s criteria to display the USDA Certified Biobased Product certification mark on SOLVONK4 with 88% of the product being derived from corn. Bio-derived and sustainable are words never before applied to the dry-cleaning industry until now. SOLVONK4 offers one single ultrapure solvent that cleans better than Perc without any of the environmental or health-related concerns.

“In recent years, there has been growing concern for the environmental and health impacts of microplastics pollution and its abundance in the natural environment. It should be noted that bio-based materials are often biodegradable and do not create microplastic particles and fibers that persist for long periods.”

“Microplastics are transported through several pathways and have been documented in a wide variety of environments, including in canals, rivers, beaches of six continents, seafloor sediments, and ocean surface waters around the world including polar regions.”

Read the full USDA report here.

To recap, bio-based chemicals are derived in whole or in part from biological materials such as corn and sugar cane. These are replacing petrochemicals which are derived from petroleum which is a non-renewable resource. They help reduce greenhouse gas emissions which contribute to climate change.

We hope this sheds some light on bio-based chemicals. Please hit the social sharing button to send to your community on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and/or Pinterest. 

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