There are millions of different tree species all over the world, with some of the most famous including oak, maple, sycamore, magnolia, cedar, and pine trees.
The pine tree in particular is known to secrete a yellow sticky liquid that acts like glue and is known as resin. The sticky substance occurs naturally in trees but is also synthetically manufactured.
Resin has become a very popular material in decor and jewelry in recent years. Many people across the world now either buy resin products or create their own, with resin art seeing a massive boost across social media.
Since the 1930s, the synthetic resin has primarily been used for industrial purposes, used to coat flooring or in adhesives, and is now more available for artists and creators.
While this type of art experienced a boom for a short time, people are now beginning to wonder more and more whether resin and resin art is bad for the environment.
The answer is more complicated than you may first assume, and it depends on the type of resin being used in industrial settings or art pieces. Here is everything you need to know about resin and which types can cause damage to the environment.
Is Resin Bad For The Environment?
Both people and the environment are unaffected by natural resin as it does not cause any harmful effects to either. Natural resin is created by trees, notably pines and firs, as a result of wind, fire, lightning, or other irritants causing damage to the bark.
Natural resins are fusible and flammable organic compounds that are soluble in a variety of organic liquids, except water. Spirit-soluble variants have been used as pharmaceuticals, solvents (such as turpentine), and varnish additives.
The oil-soluble version of resin has long been used to make soap, varnishes, and jewelry, while the toughest natural resin has also been used for these things. Because they come from an organic source, trees, they are environmentally friendly.
Modern Synthetic Resin
When incorrectly disposed of, the majority of synthetic resin products are dangerous to the environment and can leak hazardous elements into the environment and water systems.
Some resins, such as carcinogens, have been found to have harmful effects on both animals and humans. It’s impossible to say whether all resins are hazardous to the environment or just some of them because there are so many different types of resin now able to be man-made.
We cannot know if one type of synthetic resin is causing more damage to another when they are all mixed in a landfill.
One of the main reasons synthetic ones are detrimental to the environment is that they are made from fossil fuels and require the use of chemicals. When these compounds come into contact with the skin and eyes, they irritate them, and their vapor can be harmful to respiratory health.
To try and fight this growing environmental issue, some industrial resin manufacturers as well as small businesses who use it in their art or products are making the switch from synthetic to natural resin.
This itself comes with its problems though as often trying to remove this resin from the trees it is trapped in means causing more damage or even death to the trees themselves.
This type of resin is the most inexpensive, but it is also the most dangerous and harmful to both people and the environment. This resin’s vapors can irritate the lungs, cause irritation to the eyes and skin, and pollute the water supply of the local area.
Styrene, which has the potential to cause cancer in humans, is often used in the production of polyester resins. Because the resin is very flammable, it should not be subjected to high temperatures, static electricity, or ignition sources.
It must be disposed of as hazardous waste and kept away from groundwater and drains to avoid pollution. If this is not done correctly, then people in the local area may find that their respiratory health worsens due to the contamination of the water supply.
This is the more environmentally friendly option, though it does depend on the manufacturer and how it is made. It can still pollute water through drains, the ground, and watercourses, and pollution should be notified to the proper authorities.
Although polyurethane is more environmentally friendly than plastics, it nevertheless releases carbon dioxide, which is one of the major contributors to global warming.
This is the most popular resin variety on the market. Epoxy resins, unlike polyester resins, are largely known for causing health problems in people.
Polyester resins have a terrible odor and might emit harmful vapors. Inhaling epoxy resin vapors can cause asthma in people who do not wear proper protective equipment when using this material.
Because they can cause allergies and dermatitis when they come into contact with the skin, it’s typically a good idea to use gloves, goggles, and protective clothing when working with epoxy resin. Epoxy resin chemicals have also been linked to cancer and genetic alterations in animals.
Reactive and non-reactive artist resins are available. When non-reactive types are blended, a chemical reaction produces volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which might leak over time.
Chemicals will leach from inexpensive epoxy resin if it is placed in water. This is harmful to both your health and the environment.
Environmentally Friendly Alternatives
Since people have begun to become more aware of the environmental damage that resin has, there has been a push to find some healthier alternative to use in both industrial and artist settings.
A few have been made in recent years that claim to be both environmentally friendly and safe for humans.
Ecopoxy, for example, is a bio-based, plant-based epoxy “resin” manufactured sustainably and tailored exclusively for woodworking.
Terra Cast resin is another environmentally friendly option, as it uses primarily recycled materials in its colors and its black resin is manufactured from post-consumer recycled materials.
Alabaster, slush latex, or metal are some more environmentally acceptable alternatives to hard plaster or concrete for casting. Regardless of its unusual character, each material has a cost and demands additional research.
It seems like there are very few options for people who want to work with resin while also being environmentally conscious, but thanks to new research on this subject, there is growing access to new and better materials that can be used by both artists and manufacturers.
This is hopefully a sign that people are becoming more aware of how their products impact the environment.