Exposed: Improving the products that surround us
Eco-friendly solutions for food, agriculture, personal care, coatings
In addition to (and related to) the public’s increasing environmental consciousness, a growing concern can be observed today for the healthiness of the products we buy, use, consume and eat on a daily basis. This translates into a consumer trend towards products that are not only less harmful for the planet, but also for our own health, and which can therefore contribute to improving our overall quality of life. For example, there is an increasing demand for the right to breathe cleaner air, but not just in the streets of congested big cities: within our living spaces as well.
That’s why our behaviors as consumers are evolving towards eco-friendly products that harm the planet less as they are being produced (for example by being based on bio-sourced materials that come with a production process that is less polluting and less harmful for workers) while also reducing our exposure to toxic chemicals when we use them, whether they go onto our hair and skin, our walls, our fields or into our stomachs.
Products at the intersection of increased consumer safety with a lower environmental footprint are set to be ever more successful. In fact, prospective market research indicates that sales of eco-friendly products, from organic shampoos to natural vanillin or waterborne coatings, will increase significantly over the next half decade.
Here at Solvay, our long-standing commitments towards diminishing our own environmental footprint as well as that of our customers mean that we are constantly developing solutions that can meet these trends and demands. Below this video are a few significant examples..
An ingredient for environmentally conscious sweets
First and foremost, let’s talk about food. And not just any food: cakes, pastries, chocolates and the like. Vanillin, of the most widely used ingredients in the food industry, is present in all of these (even the darkest chocolate contains it), though it’s also increasingly used in other types of foods such as sports nutrition supplements, as it augments the impression of sweetness without adding sugar. The problem is, the natural extract from the actual vanilla orchid is a rare and increasingly expensive product, so manufacturers extensively turn to synthetic alternatives.
Solvay, an historic leading producer of artificial vanillin, has developed an entirely natural grade, Rhovanil® CW, made from ferulic acid extracted from rice bran oil. This is the only vanillin available on the market that is officially sanctioned as natural (apart from vanilla bean extract, of course), thanks to its production that uses the age-old process of fermentation, and to the non-GMO, natural and renewable raw material it is made from, one of the most commonly grown crops on the planet: rice.
Boosting sustainable agriculture
Speaking of agriculture, as we well know, farmers around the world today are facing the negative consequences of climate change, such as water scarcity and extreme temperatures. To help them cope, Solvay has developed AgRHO® S-Boost, a unique, natural-based biostimulant.
Biostimulants are a promising new category of compounds, substances and micro-organisms that help protect crops and secure harvests while contributing to the development of a more sustainable agriculture. The even better news is that AgRHO® S-Boost is made from a 100% natural and renewable raw material: guar beans, a legume cultivated in Northern India. Thanks to this, it was among the first Solvay products to be recognized by the Solar Impulse Foundation as one of 1,000 Efficient Solutions for the Planet.
A vegetable-based shampoo ingredient
A very useful and versatile plant, guar is also used in hair and body care products, specifically shampoo. And, you guessed it, here too there is an eco-friendly Solvay solution worth mentioning.
As you might know, shampoos contain conditioning agents, because we all want shiny and healthy-looking hair. However, many of these ingredients have a poor environmental profile and aren’t so great for our health. By using guar beans, just like with AgRHO® S-Boost, Solvay created Jaguar® C162, a non-ecotoxic and entirely vegetable-based line of ingredients that shampoo manufacturers can use in their formulations. The great advantage? It cares for for both our ecosystems and our damaged hair!
Solvents from soybeans
As mentioned in our introduction, sustainable solvents are the fastest-growing segment on the solvent market (which concerns products from paints to inks to glue and detergents), and Solvay has been actively creating bio-sourced and non-toxic solvents.
Augeo® is our line developed for cleaning products and fragrances. It is based on glycerin, a colorless and odorless substance well known for its use in the food industry, and therefore harmless for consumer health and fully biodegradable. What’s more, it is produced sustainably, from a by-product of soybean production in Brazil. As such, Augeo® represents a truly positive alternative to traditional petro-chemistry.
Facilitating petroleum-free coatings
Solvents are also heavily used for another type of application: coatings. Unfortunately, traditional petrochemical solvents used in coatings such as paints and anti-corrosion products emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that deteriorate the quality of the air we breathe and present a threat to our health.
Switching to waterborne coatings, which are more eco-friendly because water is used as a diluent to disperse a resin instead of organic solvents, is a major trend in this market, and Solvay provides products that facilitate these alternative formulations, particularly Sipomer® PAM 600. This is a specialty monomer that effectively contributes to the reduction of VOCs by providing adhesion and corrosion resistance for waterborne systems so that they achieve the same performances as solvent-based systems, without the toxicity.
Committed to environmental excellence
As these examples show, we focus our research and innovation in every field of application on creating products and materials that are often both eco-friendly and bio-based. In fact, one of our major current research initiatives is dedicated to functionalized bio-molecules, in other words coming up with bio-based materials and processes that enable us to avoid resorting to traditional petro-chemistry altogether. Across all of our businesses, Solvay is busy developing new products following this approach.
These efforts complement and overlap with other fields where environmental protection is our priority, such as electrifying our means of transportation, developing the circular economy or improving efficiency to spare our planet’s resources. Wherever chemistry can help build a more sustainable world, Solvay is there!