“Another advantage is that our sustainable paints are based entirely on waste materials, meaning they are not in competition with the food industry,” Bubenheim said.
The biomass balance approach was developed by BASF some years ago. The company has already applied the solution in several other industries. At BASF’s coatings division, they were able to apply this existing method to their customers’ needs.
Frank Naber, BASF’s senior vice president of automotive coatings solutions for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), said the feedstock of the coating products the company supplies to BMW is based on certified renewables such as manure, sewage sludge, kitchen and cafeteria waste, as well as straw residues.
“These are used as raw materials for the production of basic chemical products,” he said in an emailed reply to questions. “It is important for us, and our customers, to use organic waste only and not to compete with food production — directly or indirectly. We avoid crops or vegetable oil, and do not support competition at cultivation areas.”
Bubenheim added that the sustainable paints made using the biomass balance approach have identical material properties, which means all attributes and specifications can be carried over from the existing product.
“We look at our supply chain in its entirety as we look for ways to reduce our carbon emissions,” he said, citing two reasons paints have a particularly important role.
First, they are highly effective in lowering CO2 emissions, as they are used on every single vehicle, and second, paints are leading the way strategically, as the biomass balance approach is transferable to other oil-based product groups.
Bubenheim said BMW is currently exploring sustainable paint use at other plants in EMEA, while expanding this to other regions mostly depends on its suppliers.
Naber added that bio-based raw materials are just one aspect to develop more eco-friendly products.
“To reduce emissions in the overall process, we also focus on new technologies and solutions,” he said. “This includes low-bake coatings that require a lower curing temperature or shortened application processes. Depending on the individual customer need, the sustainable solution offering differs.”
For example, when planning new paint lines, it is helpful to already implement the integrated paint process. This way, an entire application and curing step can be saved, which shortens the painting process, reduces emissions and materials.