Maybe you are back to school shopping or just ran out of tape, whatever the case may be you are looking for environmentally friendly adhesive.

Well, you’ve come to the right place! I scoured the internet looking for quality eco-friendly adhesive, and guess what? I found some!

Spoiler Alert: I was not entirely enthused with what I found as far as selection goes for environmentally friendly glue and tape as you will soon find out.

Please humor me while I attempt to explain ordinary, non-ecofriendly glue so we have a baseline to start with.

What is glue made from?

For simplicity’s sake, I am going to be referring to synthetic glues only. I am not going to get into the ‘natural’ glues made from animal products, such as horses. (If you would like to know more about natural glue, let me know in the comments below). 

That being said, synthetic glue is made from a bunch of chemical reactions. To put it as simply as possible, the base ingredient is vinyl acetate which goes through a chemical reaction to form polyvinly acetate (PVA). The PVA is then emulsified in a solution to create the correct texture of the glue being made. 

PVA is the base ingredient for most types of synthetic glues. Other base compounds include epoxy and polyurethane. Most are derived from crude oil.

Is glue environmentally friendly?

Again, I am going to be referring to PVA based glue when I answer this question because it is the most common base for glues currently, including the almighty Elmer’s glue.

Who hasn’t eaten, I mean used Elmer’s glue growing up, am I right? 

Polyvinyl acetate glue is best known as: wood glue, carpenter’s glue, school glue, and Elmer’s glue to name a few examples.

Honestly, before researching adhesives, I thought the answer to the above question would be a resounding NO! But upon further research, I don’t believe the answer is that cut and dry.

PVA is made from refined oil and other chemicals are added to it to get the desired consistency of whatever glue product it is apart of. So there’s that. Not an environmental all star, I know, but let’s face it, almost everything we use in this world today is somehow derived from crude oil.

However, a surprise to me was that there is no evidence that glue products are found in the environment. In fact, a number of microorganisms like algae, yeast, lichens, and bacteria actually degrade polyvinyl acetate.

So, is glue environmentally friendly? Well, not really. While it’s not the worst thing for the envionment. Is it the best? No, ideally glue would not be made from crude oil products but the fact that its biproducts are not detected in the environment is a good thing.

Is adhesive biodegradable?

While some adhesive products are made from natural ingredients, often there are chemicals added to make the desired texture, and to increase the shelf life of the glue (among other uses). This means that more often than not, adhesives are NOT biodegradable.

How do you make glue eco-friendly?

Here’s the hard truth: glue is not eco-friendly. I searched the internet up and down looking for truly eco-friendly glue (no petroleum products, water based, low or no VOC, recyclable packaging, etc).  A perfectly eco-friendly glue just doesn’t exist in todays market.

That being said, there are some glues that come close to being environmentally friendly.

Eco-friendly School Glue

Unfortunately, it’s pretty slim pickins when it comes to eco-friendly school glue. The closest to environmentally friendly school glue is Elmer’s glue.

Elmer’s Earth Friendly School Glue is a good choice for your youngins working on their school project or just have a need to glue stuff together.Elmer's earth friendly school glue

Elmer’s Earth Friendly School Glue 

  • 99.6% natural glue formula (made from plants)
  • Bottle is made from 25% post-consumer recycled plastic
  • Label is made from 20% recycled paper
  • Label is printed with soy inks and adhered with a natural rubber adhesive

Ecofriendly glue sticks

Unsurprisingly, there are not many options for ecofriendly glue sticks. I was able to round up a couple of enviromentally friendly glue sticks, but let me tell you, it wasn’t that easy!UHU ReNature glue stick

The UHU ReNATURE 

  • Formula with 98% natural ingredients
  • Packaging for blister variants with over 80% recycled content and completely PVC free
  • 100% recyclable container

Coccoina Glue Stick 

  • Made with almond oil and potato starch
  • Non-toxic
  • Acid free

Ecofriendly wood glue

For the life of me, I could not find any eco-friendly wood glue. Sorry. I wish I had better news. If anyone reading this knows of any enviornmentally friendly wood glue, please let me know in the comments so I can update this section with useful information. Thanks!

Biodegradable hot glue sticks

Glue sticks made with ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) are as ecofriendly as you’re going to get when it comes to hot glue sticks.

Again, take this information with a grain of salt. Let’s not kid ourselves here. EVA is still a plastic product, it just happens to be less worse than others.

Most hot glue sticks on the market today are made from EVA, and more and more companies are moving toward earth friendly options, so that’s a good thing I guess.

Pros of EVA  hot glue sticks:

  • Water based
  • Low VOC

However, are glue sticks biodegradable? No, even ones made from EVA. It is still a plastic polymer and not readily biodegradable.

Ecofriendly industrial glue

When it comes to manufacturing products, LD Davis seems to have a leg up when it comes to environmentally friendly industrial glue.

If you are a manufacturer and looking to change the adhesive you are using to an ecofriendly industrial adhesive, check out their website here.

Their products include protein based adhesives, however many contain gelatin so if you’re a vegan manufacturer you might be out of luck with LD Davis, unfortunately.

On the plus side, LD Davis claims their protein based adhesives are completely biodegradable. In any case, there’s not much choice as far as environmentally friendly industrial glue suppliers are concerened, so give their website a peruse if you’re interested.

Homemade glue

Maybe what you have read about glue so far has not sat well with you. I know that I was surprised by the lack of environmentally friendly options available. 

Well, you can know EXACTLY what is in your glue when you make it at home. 

SnappyLiving has compiled a list of 11 eco-friendly homemade glue recipes that you could make with ingredients you have in your pantry right now. Check out their article here.

Eco friendly tape

Yes! There is such a thing as eco-friendly tape. HOORAY! Ecoenclose water activated packing tape

Packing Tape

Water Activated Carton Sealing Tape from EcoEnclose

  • Cellophane backing with natural rubber adhesive
  • Entirely plant derived
  • Renewable
  • Naturally biodegradable
  • Best for high-volume applications

Pressure activated Carton Sealing Tape from EcoEnclose

  • Same benefits as above but best suited for lower volume applications and lighter packages

Tesapack eco & strong from Tesatesa environmentally friendly packing tape

  • Made from 100% recycled plastic
  • Core made from 100% recycled cardboard
  • Label made from paper
  • Solvent free adhesive

Scotch Tape

Yes! A go-to in most families in a paper ripping crisis, Scotch Tape is now available in an earth friendly version.

Scotch Magic Greener Tape Scotch mage greener tape

  • Made from over 65% recycled or plant based material
  • Refillable dispenser made from over 75% renewable or recycled materials
  • Works just as well as the original Scotch Tape 

Best Practices for choosing environmentally friendly adhesive

Since, it’s not entirely cut and dry as to what adhesives are eco-friendly and which ones are not, I have put together a few things to keep in mind when choosing environmentally friendly adhesive.

Here are some simple guidelines to follow when choosing any type of earth friendly adhesive:

  • Recyclable packaging
  • Recyclable dispenser
  • low or no VOC
  • No solvents (water or plant based)

I hope this article helped you out a bit on your quest for environmentally friendly adhesive. Honestly, I was pretty disapointed with the lack of options available.

The silver lining is that big companies are starting to produce eco-friendly adhesives, so hopefully other companies will follow suit and make them more readily available for the general public. 

Patience is a virtue.

As always, leave any comments and questions below. Have you made your own glue before?

Cheers, and have an awesome day!

 

14 Comments

  1. Lynette Wellmeier

    This article was extremely helpful. Thank you so much for compiling this information. Of course we continue to fact-check on a daily basis because the target keeps moving. I make all natural products for sale and packaging is quite the challenge. So helpful! Thanks again

    Reply
    • Kathy

      Thank you so much for your kind words!

      Reply
  2. JEN

    Kathy, cheers for writing this! Some good time and research has been put in, you can tell. Nice one. 😀

    Reply
    • Kathy

      Thank you so much! It’s positive, encouraging comments like this that keep me going! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Reply
  3. Steve

    Caesin based wood adhesives are widely available in europe and made from Milk protine. Which asside from the negative impact of dairy farming makes them a natural product.

    Reply
    • Kathy

      Thanks for the info! I appreciate any additional information that can help consumers make more eco-friendly choices.

      Reply
  4. John Foster

    Thanks for the column. I would propose that even though there is no truly green wood glue, there is also no truly green vehicle, container, agricultural practice etc. By definition wood glue is used to build or repair a product that is made from a renewable resource, and thus worthy of some credit. I work at a building supply, I struggle with the amount of wafer boards, particle boards, MDF’s and other products that we sell that are full of adhesives, but I also remember a company rep from a sawmill who told me that because of these products and other technologies that they are selling over 50% product per tree than they were in the 1970’s.

    Reply
    • Kathy

      This is true. All we can do is make the best choice and as long as more and more people are choosing a more eco-friendly option, the better the earth will be in the long run. Thanks for your comment!

      Reply
  5. Greg Schueneman

    Infinity Bond’s Infinty HM-Enviromelt-100 a 100% compostable and biodegradable hotmelt adhesive commonly used for bookbinding, packaging, and laminating.

    Reply
  6. Brian

    Excellent article, exactly what I was looking for!

    Reply
    • Kathy

      Awesome! Glad you liked it!

      Reply
  7. George MacGregor

    Thank you for sharing this information, a great article.

    Reply
    • Kathy

      Thanks so much!

      Reply
  8. June

    If you don’t need a very strong glue and you want something that is one hundred percent non toxic for the environment you might want to look into methylcellulose.

    Methylcellulose comes in powder form and needs to be mixed with some precision. For a liter and a half of glue, I boil 350gm of distilled water, add it to a 1.6 liter container, then add three tablespoons of the powder and mix it in with an electric mixer. Once it is well dispersed in the water, even if not totally disolved, I add cold distilled water for the rest. If you refrigerate it overnight, it will come out perfectly transparent, smooth and ready to use.

    The distilled water insures that no bacteria will grow and spoil the glue if you are not using it immediately or all at once.
    There are a few different grades of quality — best to look for archival quality.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *