BCGC Portfolio

Greener Solutions 2019: Alternatives to DMF with Nike

Dimethylformamide (DMF) is used extensively as a solvent and “texturizer” in the manufacture of polyurethane-based synthetic leather used in sport shoes and partner Nike wished to explore ways to reduce or eliminate the chemical from its production line.

DMF is a known liver toxicant and is associated with several other severe health outcomes. DMF can be easily absorbed by the dermal and respiratory systems, whereafter the liver is the primary target organ. Overall, DMF is a high or moderate hazard for the endpoints of carcinogenicity and...

Greener Solutions 2019: Stereolithography (SLA) resins

Acrylates are used as very effective cross-linkers in the polymerization of liquid resins used in stereolithography (SLA) printing. When UV light is shown on reactive monomers or oligomers in the liquid resins, they bond together to form a solid object and a typical SLA printer will build up a solid object, layer by layer, using this chemical reaction.

Acrylates and methacrylates present some human and environmental health problems, however. In use in the baseline study resin these chemicals were shown to be skin and eye irritants, skin...

Greener Solutions 2016: Modular polymers with Steelcase

The Steelcase team focused on one area of the current plastic manufacturing process that would require changes to execute polymer modularity — additives. The team chose the colorants used for the polypropylene Node chair line as the baseline for substitution and as a test for the concept of modularity. These colorants can be hazardous. For example, carbon black, a common colorant, is a well-known occupational hazard and probable carcinogen. The team was faced with two distinct but entwined parts of the challenge: finding more benign materials, like...

Greener Solutions 2018: Safer Sunscreens

The Safer Sunscreens group identified naturally-sourced compounds such as colorless carotenoids, mycosporine-like amino acids, and vitamin E compounds, for use as potential alternatives to existing sunscreen compounds. These substances may serve as viable alternatives to the benzophenone compounds recently banned in the State of Hawaii. The team based its research on plant and microbial approaches to UV protection. The group also considered the properties of compounds that have been accepted for use in Europe, but not in the United States, with an aim to identify the...

Greener Solutions 2017: Mushroom-based leather performance with MycoWorks

The MycoWorks team were challenged with improving performance in a product that was already more sustainable than traditional leather making and included no toxic materials in either the finished product or manufacturing process. Their main concern was in producing a supple mushroom-based “leather” that held up to mechanical stresses and environmental moisture.

They proposed three methods to increase the strength and flexibility of the product by cross-linking chitosan in the material, using genipin among other materials, and applying a moisture barrier...

Greener Solutions 2020: PFAS in Aftermarket Carpet Treatments

The aftermarket carpet treatment team presented PFAS alternatives for aftermarket stain repellant treatments. Their proposed solutions included natural waxes and oils, biopolymers, and silicon-based materials, including silicon dioxide nanoparticles and silicon-containing small molecules and polymers. The team identified chitosan and cellulose nanocrystal as candidates for a biopolymer approach. The team noted the potential to combine multiple strategies to achieve optimal performance metrics....

Greener Solutions 2020: PFAS removal for carpet recycling

The carpet recycling group presented innovative strategies to remove PFAS from carpet face fiber fluff during recycling. The team provided strategies with a range of timescales to implementation. The first strategy involved using base hydrolysis and granular activated carbon (GAC) adsorption to remove but not destroy PFAS. The second strategy built on the first, but proposed using reverse osmosis and plasma treatment to destroy the PFAS. The third strategy proposed the use of esterase (specifically pig liver esterase) as an alternative to using sodium hydroxide in the other...

Greener Solutions 2020: PFAS-free home product packaging

The product packaging researchers identified biopolymer films for product packaging for a range of Method Home products, including laundry powders, detergents, and soaps, with a range of moisture barrier needs. The team came up with strategies that fell into three categories: Biopolymer films derived from natural sources, including chitosan, pectin, and gelatin; chemical additive cross-linking film to improve barrier and mechanical properties, including with genipin and ferulic acid; and physical additive nanofillers to reinforce film’s barrier and mechanical properties,...

Greener Solutions 2021: Compostable Adhesive for PLU Stickers

This team was challenged with identifying biodegradable pressure sensitive adhesives for home-compostable price lookup (PLU) stickers. The team’s proposed alternatives include: proteins (gluten, Nb-1R, Arabinogalactan Proteins), polysaccharides (chitosan and carrageenan), biolipids (PHAs, Epoxidized Soybean Oil), and structural adhesives. The breadth of strategies explored provide excellent context, inspiration, and potential alternatives for the future of greener pressure sensitive adhesives....