Is glue biodegradable? (3 categories of adhesives)

This article shall answer the question, ” is glue biodegradable?”. 

It shall also cover other topics such as:

  • Types of glues.
  • The components of different types of glues.
  • The applications of different types of glues.
  • The eco-friendliness of glues.

Is glue biodegradable?

Yes, glue made up of materials that are obtained from animals and plants is biodegradable. Synthetic glues derived from synthetic polymers are non-biodegradable.

There are many different types of glues based on the constituent materials and their target functions.

Plant-based and animal-based glues are readily degraded by microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi because plant and animal products are organic and therefore susceptible to microbial degradation.

Synthetic adhesives made from non-organic molecules are not susceptible to microbial degradation.

Biodegradation is the process by which microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi break down organic tissue into small biomass, producing carbon dioxide, water, or methane.

Heat is also produced during the process of biodegradation and is lost to the environment. 

The main agents of biodegradation are bacteria and fungi. They break organic materials, using them as a source of carbon to make food and energy.

Microbes can use either oxygen or other chemical compounds to break down organic matter. When they use oxygen, the process is called aerobic biodegradation.

When microorganisms use any other chemical to break down organic matter instead of oxygen, the process is called anaerobic biodegradation.

The products of aerobic biodegradation are carbon dioxide and water. The products of anaerobic biodegradation are carbon dioxide and methane.

The biodegradation process occurs in three distinct stages: biodeterioration, bio-fragmentation, and finally assimilation. 

Biodeterioration is the first stage of biodegradation that involves abiotic factors such as light, UV radiation, and water to help in the weakening of the structure of organic substances.

Bio-fragmentation is the second stage that involves the physical breakdown of organic matter into small particles, this is due to the biodeterioration of the organic matter in the first stage.

Assimilation is the last stage of biodegradation, it involves the fungi and the bacteria breaking down the small particles into even smaller biomass, producing heat, water, carbon dioxide, and methane, with the products depending on the type of biodegradation; whether aerobic or anaerobic.

Is glue the same as an adhesive?

The words glue and adhesive have often been used interchangeably, but oblivious to many, glue and adhesive are two different things.

In simpler words, all glues are adhesives but not all adhesives are glue. Glue is obtained from natural sources such as plants and animals while adhesives are different substances used to bond surfaces together.

Adhesives can include glues and synthetic adhesives.

What are the types of adhesives?

There are different types of adhesives, depending on the materials from which they are made.

The following are the categories of adhesives.

Animal-based adhesives. 

These adhesives were the ones originally referred to as glues, although the term has developed to other types of glues.

They include the following:

  • Animal glue. This is derived from collagen of animal products such as proteins, fish, hides, hooves, and bones. 
  • Albumin glue is derived from the albumin protein of animals.
  • Casein glue is derived from the phosphoproteins found in mammalian milk.
  • Meat glue, This is a type of glue used to bind protein together. It is used to make food products such as meatballs, chicken nuggets, and imitation crab meat.

Plant-based adhesives.

These are adhesives that are derived from plant products. They include the following:

Urea-formaldehyde resin.

This adhesive is also known as urea-methanal. 

This is a synthetic thermosetting resin that is produced from urea and formaldehyde compounds. The adhesive is common in binding plywood, particle board, and medium-density fiberboard.

The adhesive has high tensile strength, high heat-distortion temperatures, low water absorption, and is highly durable.


This is an emulsion that is produced by rubber plants. It is produced as a white fluid that coagulates upon exposure to air.

Latex is made up of proteins, alkaloids, starches, oils, gums, resins, tannins, and sugars.

Natural latexes are used in making clothes, rubbers, and anesthetics but synthetic latex is used as glue.

Other types of plant-based adhesives include:

  • Canada balsam.
  • Gum Arabic.
  • Library paste.
  • Starch-based glue.
  • Rice glue.
  • Methylcellulose glue.
  • Resorcinol glue.

Synthetic adhesives.

Synthetic adhesives are derived from chemical or natural compounds.

They are synthesized with certain properties to serve a particular purpose.

They include the following:

Elmer’s glue.

This type of glue is mostly used in homes and schools. It is also called white glue.

Elmer’s glue is made from polyvinyl acetate compound that is derived from American-grown corn.

The adhesive is used in:

  • Removing sliver from fingers.
  • Removing frays from shoelaces and belts.
  • Covering the opened parts of pruned plants.
  • Fixing cracking or chipping boards.
  • Filling small holes in the wall.
  • Securing cloth buttons.
  • Fixing loose screws.

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 phenols, alcohols, and acids 

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

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 the epoxy resin include the following:

  • 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.

Gorilla glue.

This is a synthetic adhesive that is derived from polyurethane polymer.

The glue is used on wood, stones, metals, ceramics, glass, and foams.

Gorilla glue has toxic effects when inhaled. It is irritating to the eyes, respiratory and nasal systems, and the skin. It may cause a gastrointestinal blockage if ingested.

Super glue.

Super glue is made from ethyl cyanoacrylate and its derivative esters.

The most common types of cyanoacrylates include ethyl 2-cyanoacrylate (the super glue), n-butyl cyanoacrylate, octyl cyanoacrylate, and 2-octyl cyanoacrylate.

Super glue is used in the following ways:

  • It is used in electronic wire wraps.
  • It is used in making flying model aircraft.
  • It is used in the aquaria to fragment corals.
  • It is used temporarily to bind together smooth surfaces.
  • It is added to sodium bicarbonate to form a hard adhesive filler.
  • It is used to capture latent fingerprints on surfaces such as glass and plastics.
  • It is used in woodworking. It is mixed with sawdust to fill cracks.
  • It is used in the veterinary field to mend bones and hides.
  • It is used in cosmetology as a glue to bind objects such as artificial nails.

Super glue should be handled with a lot of care because it causes skin injuries when it comes into contact with the skin.

Super glue can cause toxicity to the respiratory system when inhaled, it can also irritate the eyes.

Super glue poses some threats when it is used with natural fibers such as cotton and wool. When it comes into contact with these fibers, a rapid exothermic reaction occurs, releasing heat that may cause skin burns or emit toxic fumes.

Other types of synthetic adhesives include the following:

  • Acrylonitrile.
  • Acrylic.
  • Ethylene-vinyl acetate (hot-melt glue).
  • Polyester resin.
  • Polyethylene (hot-melt glue).
  • Polyvinyl chloride adhesive.
  • Polyvinylpyrrolidone adhesive.

Is glue toxic?

Natural glue derived from plants and animals is rarely toxic to the user.

According to a study, Glues contain chemicals that are toxic when inhaled. Most synthetic adhesives emit toxic and toxic substances. Super glue can cause toxicity to the respiratory system when inhaled, it can also irritate the eyes.

The urea-formaldehyde adhesive is a potential carcinogenic. Formaldehyde is a mutagen chemical that can cause cancer. Formaldehyde also irritates the eyes, skin, and respiratory system.

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.

Gorilla glue has toxic effects when inhaled. It is irritating to the eyes, respiratory and nasal systems, and the skin. It may cause a gastrointestinal blockage if ingested.


This blog article has answered the question of the biodegradability of glue.

It has also covered other areas such as:

  • Types of glues.
  • Applications of different glues.
  • Toxicity of different types of glues.
  • Biodegradation process.

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

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): is glue biodegradable?

Is there environmentally friendly glue?

Yes, glues derived from natural, plant, and animal products, such as starch and dextrin, are biodegradable because these compounds can be broken down by microorganisms.

Is glue renewable or nonrenewable?

Glue made from renewable materials such as plant and animal products is renewable while those made from synthetic polymers are non-renewable.

Can glue be composted?

Yes, glues derived from biodegradable materials such as plant and animal products are compostable.


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Loguercio, AD; Salvalaggio, D; Piva, AE; Klein-Júnior, CA; de LR Accorinte, M; Meier, MM; Grande, RHM; Reis, A (1 May 2011). “Adhesive Temperature: Effects on Adhesive Properties and Resin-Dentin Bond Strength”. Operative Dentistry. 36 (3): 293–303. doi:10.2341/10-218L.

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.

Elliott, Stuart (April 5, 2010). “New Glue for You? True”. The New York Times.

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