The SUS in SUSBIND: ensuring development of sustainable wood-based panel boards

About the SUSBIND project

The SUSBIND consortium develops, produces and tests bio-based adhesive systems as an alternative to the current adhesive systems. Current adhesive systems for wood-based panel boards in furniture mass production are mainly based on a formaldehyde resin. SUSBIND aims at producing these bio-based adhesive systems with leading wood board manufacturers for two product types: P2 particleboard (PB) and medium density fibreboard (MDF).

SUSBIND aims at developed a bio-based adhesive system that outperforms current conventional adhesive systems by means of a significantly lower carbon footprint, while also reducing emissions that may have a negative effect on human health.

How to ensure that a sustainable binder is developed?

 Throughout the four-year Research and Innovation project funded by the Horizon 2020 Programme of the European Union, CE Delft – an independent research and consultancy organisation from the Netherlands specialised in developing innovative solutions to environmental problems – provides guidance on environmental aspects.

The process is split up in four steps:

  1. Setting the benchmark of current state-of-the-art resin production

The current carbon footprint and emissions toxic for humans of the production of resins serve as a benchmark for the SUSBIND binder. This means that the SUSBIND binder will need to perform better than the binder with the lowest carbon footprint and lowest emissions that are on the market today.

  1. Analyzing the proposed bio-based feedstock

The first half year of SUSBIND is largely dedicated to selected suitable bio-based feedstocks. Sustainability is one of the aspects that is taken into account in the selection process (see blog post about selection). We analyse the carbon footprint of the production of the proposed bio-based feedstocks as well as the risk for land use change when scaling up production of the SUSBIND binder.

  1. Analyzing the proposed resin production

The two central years of SUSBIND are largely dedicated to developing a recipe for the resin as well as an initial production process. In this step, it is important to ensure that the other ingredients in the resin (besides the bio-based feedstock) are also as sustainable as possible.  Including that harmful emissions and input of energy is minimized during the production.

  1. Analyzing the proposed adhesive system

The last year and a half of the project is dedicated to developing an adhesive system. That is to combine the resin with other chemicals so that the produced board meets all the required properties to be used in furniture. In this step, it is important to ensure that the other ingredients in the adhesive system (besides the resin) are also as sustainable as possible. Potentially harmful emissions during both production and use must be minimized as well as energy use is minimized in the production of the wood-based panel board.

Product life cycle

How do you research this?

To research the carbon footprint and the emissions that could be toxic for humans we use the life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology. The LCA methodology is used to determine the impact of a product or service on the environment throughout the entire life cycle, and has been standardised in ISO 14040 and 14044 (ISO, 2006a) (ISO, 2006b). It can be used to compare the environmental impact of different products or services that fulfil the same function. An LCA study consist of four phases:

  1. Goal and scope definition: Defining the research question and the boundaries of the study.
  2. Life cycle inventory (LCI): Inventory of all the elementary flows to and from the production system within the system boundaries, e.g. extraction of water and emission of CO2.
  3. Life cycle impact assessment (LCIA): Translation of all elementary flows to environmental impacts by means of an environmental impact assessment methodology. E.g. methane emissions to climate change impact.
  4. Interpretation: Interpretation of the results of the LCIA, a critical evaluation of the results and drawing of conclusions.

The SUSBIND consortium aims to develop an adhesive system for two types of board products, particle board (PB) of Type P2 and medium density fibreboard (MDF). For each of these boards a functional unit is defined:

  • Functional unit for PB: An adhesive system for P2 PB measuring 450 by 550 by 14 mm, meeting the performance requirements.
  • Functional unit for MDF: An adhesive system for MDF measuring 450 by 550 by 12 mm, meeting the performance requirements.

What are the results so far?

For further carbon footprint assessments in SUSBIND we recommend comparing the bio-based to conventional adhesives using the lowest carbon footprint of current state-of-the art production. These are 490 g CO2 eq. for PB (based on UF-adhesive) and 650 g CO2 eq. for MDF (also based on UF-adhesive) per piece of board as defined in the functional unit. These represent comparatively ambitious benchmarks for the SUSBIND project. This environmental impact (carbon footprint, human toxicity potential) will be used as a baseline with which to compare the new SUSBIND adhesive.


Sanne Nusselder,

Senior consultant/researcher CE Delft