A tree trunk in close up on the right with blurred green background to the left.

The formaldehyde adhesives currently used by manufacturers are toxic, carcinogenic petrochemicals which prevent recycling and incineration. As such, most construction panels and furniture made from engineered wood end up in a landfill. The new adhesive, derived from extracted and purified waste, is sustainable, non-toxic and possesses a step-change improvement in recyclability and circularity with the potential to enable 90 per cent of engineered wood products, such as furniture and construction boards, to become fully recyclable, helping to develop a sustainable circular economy in this sector.

BindEthics, the sustainable glue company behind this innovation, was founded by Callum Smith, a 21-year-old materials engineer from Esher who is completing an integrated Master's (MEng Material Science and Engineering) at the University of Birmingham and Maria Garcia, a chemist with an MSc in molecular design from the University of Amsterdam.

Our glue is ethically sourced, has end-of-life biodegradability and has properties suited to replacing traditional formaldehyde adhesives. As well as being fully recyclable, the glue can be produced with almost no additional cost to the manufacturer and has a carbon footprint 86 per cent lower than traditional adhesives.

Callum Smith

BindEthics first explored the possibility of a base formulation for their adhesive derived entirely from waste in 2021 with the purification of industrial food waste by washing, filtration and centrifugation. High protein content and polysaccharides contribute to binding, while other natural crosslinkers and bioderived solvents are present in the formulation. In 2022 preliminary trials conducted at the Biorenewables Development Centre (BDC) in York were backed up by analytical, experimental studies enabling the development of the first minimum viable product.

They are currently working with one of the three largest engineered wood companies in the UK and one of the UK's largest packaging companies for technical insight. The Company has several Letters of Intent from relevant partners, including a European distributor.

Commercial, scale-up and lab-based support has come from the Biorenewables Development Centre in York under their European Regional Development Programme business assist scheme and Innovate UK. Additionally, BindEthics receives network access, business space and financial aid from the University of Birmingham and Innovate UK, which has helped to accelerate the innovation with Callum a participant on the UoB Elevate programme, which supports University of Birmingham student and graduate start-ups.

Our next step is to identify and conduct further commercial trials with companies currently using toxic and synthetic adhesives. A particular opportunity is with the corrugated board industry, which is looking for alternatives to their starch-based adhesives, which use borates, toxic substances imported into the UK. We are currently identifying companies using these starch-based adhesives who wish to minimise their environmental impact so that they can trial our product.

Callum Smith

The particle board industry in the UK alone currently uses 1000 tons per day of urea-formaldehyde adhesive valued at £388 million annually. Globally, the value of the urea-formaldehyde market is £9.5 billion.

Callum Smith said:

"BindEthics is showing how research and innovation can improve the recyclability of modern furniture and construction panels," said Julian Beare, Chairman of the Armourers and Brasiers Venture Prize judging panel. "Our prize looks to encourage scientific entrepreneurship in the UK and provide funding to help innovative developments like this realise their potential. Our vision is that our new bio-adhesive derived from food waste will replace a range of adhesives used across industry. The initial focus is on replacing the formaldehyde-based glues used in manufactured engineered wood products, but we also envisage applications for our sustainable adhesive within the shoe and automotive industries.

Notes for editors

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