Is epoxy resin biodegradable? (5 advantages of epoxy resin)

In this blog, the question, “is epoxy resin biodegradable?” shall be answered.

Other areas which shall also be covered include; the components of epoxy resin, the types of resins, advantages of using organic resins, and a comparison between organic and synthetic resin.

Is epoxy resin biodegradable?

Yes, epoxy resin is biodegradable because it contains natural resin which is biodegradable. Biodegradation works on every organic matter.

Biodegradation is the breakdown of organic matter by water, oxygen, light, radiation, bacteria, and fungi.

Biodegradation breaks down naturally occurring substances into small biomass and other products such as methane and carbon dioxide gases.

Some of the biomass becomes part of the soil, enriching the soil fertility, while some are assimilated by the bacteria and fungi to be used in their body systems.

Bacteria and fungi produce different products on biodegradation, depending on their enzymes or the chemical constituents of the substances being degraded.

Resins are also broken down into small matters depending on their chemical structure.

Another determinant for the products of biodegradation is the type of biodegradation that is taking place.

Aerobic biodegradation: this involves the breakdown of substances by bacteria or fungi in the presence of oxygen.

The gas produced in aerobic biodegradation is carbon dioxide.

Anaerobic biodegradation: this is the breakdown of substances in the absence of oxygen.

The bacteria or fungi use other gases like methane in place of oxygen.

The gas produced in this type of biodegradation is mainly methane which is used by the microorganisms for respiration.

Aerobic biodegradation occurs at a much faster rate than anaerobic respiration, on the other hand, anaerobic respiration is more efficient and thorough than aerobic respiration.

What are the types of resins? 

There are several types of resins, depending on their chemical components or the process of manufacturing used.

The two broad categories of resins are natural resins and synthetic resins.

Natural resins are those types of resins that are made up of natural components.

They are mainly produced by plants for self-defense.

When a plant is injured, plants produce resins to protect themselves against microorganisms and insects which could penetrate plant tissue via those injured areas.

Another importance of resin is that its smell attracts herbivores and predators which helps in pollination and seed dispersal.

Plant resins are different from other plants’ exudates such as latex and gum.

Synthetic resins are made through industrial processes.

They can be made from natural resins or chemical products.

Natural resins can also be taken to industries to improve their different properties for them to serve a certain purpose. 

The different types of resins include:

Epoxy resin.

This is a polymer made up of epoxide monomers.

It is also called polyepoxides 

Epoxy resins can be cross-linked with themselves through the process of homopolymerization or with other groups such as ones, phenols, alcohols, and acids 

The cross-linking is done mainly to harden the epoxy resin, in a process called curing.

Properties of epoxy resin.

Epoxy resin has the following properties.

  • It has high chemical resistance.
  • It has a high thermal resistance.
  • It is durable.
  • It is biodegradable.
  • Good electrical insulator.
  • It is heat resistant.

Uses of epoxy resin.

It is used in the following ways.

  • In making adhesives.
  • As a composite material in other substances.
  • As powder coatings for washers and dryers.
  • Used in coating steel to prevent corrosion.
  • As structural glue.
  • As a painting
  •  medium.

Liquid epoxy resin irritates the eyes and eyes.

It is also toxic to aquatic organisms.

It causes dermatitis in areas exposed to it.

It can cause asthma in the user.

Phenolic resins.

They are commonly known as phenoplasts.

These are synthetic polymers of phenol and formaldehyde.

The hardening of the phenolic resins depends on the ratio and cross-linking between phenol and formaldehyde.

Properties of phenolic resins.

Phenolic resins have the following characteristics:

  • They are resistant to heat 
  • They are hard and hence durable.
  • They are highly stable.
  • They are resistant to an electrical charge.
  • They are resistant to chemical solvents.
  • They are brittle.
  • They are biodegradable.

Uses of phenolic resins (PF).

Phenolic resins are used in:

  • Making electrical punch-through boards.
  • Making countertops.
  • Making duroplast which is used in automobiles.
  • Making higher-end billiard balls.
  • Making micro-balloons for density control.
  • In making brake shoes, brake pads, and clutch discs.

Urea-formaldehyde resin (UF).

It is also called methanal.

This is a synthetic thermosetting polymer of urea and formaldehyde.

Properties of urea-formaldehyde.

The following are the properties of the urea-formaldehyde resin.

  • It has high tensile strength.
  • High stress to strain ratio (flexural modulus).
  • It breaks down under high heat.
  • It has slow water absorption.
  • Hard 
  • It has a high refractive index.

Uses of urea-formaldehyde resin.

Urea-formaldehyde resin has the following uses:

  • It is used as wood glue to fix plywood, particleboard, and medium-density fibreboard.
  • Used in making electrical appliances casing.
  • Its foam is used as artificial snow, mostly in movies.
  • It is used in agriculture as a source of nitrogen.

Urea-formaldehyde resins have raised questions about their usability. This is because when formaldehyde concentration is high in the air, it causes eye irritation, nose irritation, wheezing and coughing, allergic reactions, nausea, difficulty in breathing, fatigue, skin rash, and over time it can cause cancer.

Unsaturated polyester resin.

This is a synthetic resin formed by reacting organic acids with polyhydric alcohols.

Properties of unsaturated polyester resin.

They include.

  • Resistant to water and chemicals.
  • Resistant to weathering.
  • Resistant to high temperatures.
  • Have low shrinkage.
  • They have a strong styrene odor.
  • Difficult to mix.
  • It produces toxic fumes such as MEKP from its hardener.
  • Doesn’t bond many substances.

Uses of unsaturated polyester resin.

They include the following.

  • In sheet molding.
  • As a laser printer toner.
  • In fabricating wall panels.
  • Used in curing-in-place pipes.

Polyurethane resin.

This is a synthetic polymer made by reacting a polyol(alcohol) with an isocyanate in presence of certain additives and catalysts.

Inhalation of a high concentration of its vapor irritates the respiratory system.

Inhalation also causes headaches, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting.

It can cause skin and eye irritation.

It can also cause asthma.

Its properties include.

  • High resistance to biodegradation.
  • Has strong bonding properties.
  • Resilient to heat and chemicals.
  • Resistant to water and oil.
  • It is highly tough.

It is used in:

  • Floor coatings.
  • Plastic coatings.
  • Composite wood.
  • In electronic appliances.
  • Used in automotive construction.

Silicone resin.

This is a type of resin that is mainly made up of silicon elements and oligosiloxanes.

Silicone resin is biodegradable by fungi, mainly the algae Stichococcus bacillaris.

Silicone resin properties include.

  • Heat resistance.
  • Repellent to water.
  • Prone to weathering.
  • It is dielectric.

Silicone resins are used.

  • As sealants.
  • As adhesives.
  • As lubricants.
  • In making cooking appliances.
  • In thermal insulation.
  • In electrical insulation.

Is epoxy resin eco-friendly?

Yes, epoxy resins are biodegradable and hence they are eco-friendly.

They are broken down into small harmless particles which are non-toxic to the environment.

According to a study, all organic resins such as silicone resin, urea-formaldehyde, and epoxy resin  are biodegradable, 

However, some forms of resins have some degree of environmental toxicity.

  • Liquid epoxy can cause water toxicity; affecting aquatic life.
  • Unsaturated polyester when burnt produces fumes that are toxic to the user.

Synthetic resins such as polyurethane, and unsaturated polyester are non-biodegradable and therefore produce toxins to the environment which lead to water and soil pollution.

Toxicity of resins.

Most resins contain chemicals that are toxic to plants and animals if not well handled.

  • Urea-formaldehyde causes irritation to the eyes, nose irritation, skin irritation, skin rashes, wheezing and coughing, and over time it can cause cancer.
  • Polyurethane can irritate the respiratory system, headaches, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. It also can cause asthma.
  • Hardeners of unsaturated polyester resin produce MEKP fumes which are toxic to the user.

Conclusion.

This blog has answered the question of the biodegradability of epoxy resin.

In addition, other areas covered include:

  • Types of resins and their properties and uses 
  • Biodegradability and eco-friendliness of resins.
  • Types of biodegradation.

For any questions or comments, please use the comment section below.

Frequently asked questions: is epoxy resin biodegradable?

Is epoxy resin bad for the environment?

No, solid epoxy resin is safe for the environment because it is biodegradable.

However, liquid epoxy resin produces fumes that are toxic to aquatic life and as a result, it is not safe for the environment.

Why is resin not biodegradable?

Organic resin is biodegradable, but synthetic resins are non-biodegradable because they are formed from petroleum products which are not easy to break by microorganisms. 

Is PVC biodegradable?

No, PVC is non-biodegradable because it is made from petrochemicals that can not be broken down by microorganisms.

Citations.

Fiebach, Klemens; Grimm, Dieter (2000). “Resins, Natural”. Ullmann’s Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. Weinheim: Wiley-VCH. doi:10.1002/14356007.a23_073

Capricho, Jaworski C.; Fox, Bronwyn; Hameed, Nishar (2020-01-02). “Multifunctionality in Epoxy Resins”. Polymer Reviews. 60 (1): 1–41. doi:10.1080/15583724.2019.1650063. 

Seymour, Raymond B.; Kauffman, George B. (1992). “Polyurethanes: A class of modern versatile materials”. Journal of Chemical Education. 69 (11): 909. Bibcode:1992JChEd..69..909S. doi:10.1021/ed069p909.

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