Biobased ingredients are typically derived from plants, such as soybeans. More and more, companies are turning to biobased ingredients for environmentally friendly solutions to a wide range of industrial applications, including lubricants, adhesives and inks.

In fact, thanks to recent research, there are now more soy-based industrial products available than ever before! These provide safer options for both humans and the planet when compared to traditional products, such as petroleum and formaldehyde.

Let’s explore the many ways soy shows up to keep us and the planet safe.

Soy-based Lubricants

Soy’s high performance and low environmental impact have made it a popular choice among companies for decades. It’s commonly used in machinery lubricants, which help keep the different parts of machines moving with less friction. A common lubricant that you may have in your garage right now is oil for your car’s engine.

As the cost of petroleum-based lubricants rises, soy–based lubricants have become increasingly important in keeping America’s factories running. In addition to high economic costs, petroleum-based lubricants also have high environmental costs. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, petroleum refineries are a major source of hazardous and toxic air pollutants. Some petroleum-based lubricants have even been linked to skin cancers and disorders!

Studies have shown that soybean oil performs similarly or better to petroleum in most lubricant applications while producing a smaller carbon footprint and reducing the human health risks. In addition, most lubricants made with soy oil biodegrade once they are released into the environment, making them ideal for areas where machinery is used outdoors.

Over the years, U.S. Soy has partnered with several organizations to develop safe, soy-based alternatives for industrial applications. For example, U.S. Soy collaborated with Renewable Lubricants® to develop a commercial soy-based transmission fluid that doesn’t sacrifice performance.

Soy-based Adhesives

Soy-based adhesives have been used in the making of wood products, such as plywood, for over 70 years. But, in the late 1930s, adhesives derived from formaldehyde provided performance advantages and lower costs than soy products, and slowly gained popularity.

Recent environmental and health concerns around formaldehyde have caused a renewed interest in biobased adhesives, including soy. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, exposure to formaldehyde can result in respiratory issues, as well as eye, nose and throat irritation. In addition to its negative impact on human health, formaldehyde also causes adverse health effects in animals.

Research support from U.S Soy led to the development of a soy-based, formaldehyde-free resin that bonds wood together. More than 50 million formaldehyde-free plywood panels have used this biobased adhesives to keep consumers safe.

So, if you’re remodeling your home, check out PureBond® by Columbia Forest Products or SoyStrong® hardwood from StatesIndustries for plywood that uses soy-based adhesives, instead of formaldehyde. Another option to consider is HempWood which is a non-toxic wood composite that uses a soy-based adhesive and doesn’t produce any volatile organic compounds.

Soy-based Inks

In the early 1970s, ink was primarily made with petroleum. However, the rising prices of petroleum compelled the Newspaper Association of America to find a cheaper alternative. They tested various formulations before coming up with the idea to use soybean oil.

In addition to being more cost effective, soy-based ink also has a smaller carbon footprint and a decreased risk to human health than traditional petroleum-based inks. In fact, soy-based inks produce over 80% less hazardous compounds than petroleum-based inks.

A study published in the Journal of Applied Biomaterials & Functional Materials compared the printing quality of inks made of vegetable oils and petroleum-derived mineral oils. The result? Both inks show similar printing performances in terms of printing quality. The study concluded that ink choice should be based on human and environmental health impacts, and ease of recycling and printing. Soy-based ink for the win!

Speaking of recycling, did you know soy-based inks make it easier to recycle paper products? Soy-based inks are easier to remove from paper and fabric, making them easier to “de-ink” for recycling. So next time you purchase a book or a t-shirt, look for the “Printed With Soy Ink” seal to help ensure your money is going to a sustainable cause!

Enhanced Safety for People and Planet

Not only does soy play a role in protecting workers and families, it’s also a sustainable product that helps protect our environment. It’s interesting to see the many ways this biobased ingredient can continue keeping us and the planet safe.

Want to learn more about the many uses of soy beyond food? Explore how soy shows up in personal care products and learn how to enhance your home with soy-based products.