From Sticky to Sustainable: Unveiling the Biodegradability of Glue

April 27, 2023 in environment, Sustainability

Article summary and Key takeaways: Glue is commonly used in our everyday lives, but it is important to consider its biodegradability as we become more environmentally conscious. The biodegradability of glue varies depending on the type and formulation. Eco-friendly glue sticks made from plant-based materials are typically biodegradable and compostable. Glue designed for bonding plastic surfaces may not be biodegradable. Homemade glues using natural ingredients can be a sustainable alternative. Hot glue is not biodegradable, but some manufacturers offer bio-based or biodegradable options. Elmer’s glue, super glue, and PVA glue are not biodegradable. Gorilla Glue offers environmentally friendly options. The biodegradability of glue can be influenced by environmental conditions and chemical additives. The production of glue can have environmental impacts, but alternatives using renewable resources are being explored. Elmer’s glue is not compostable. The most eco-friendly glues are made from sustainable materials and certified by reputable eco-labels. Biodegradable adhesive options include natural rubber, starch-based, water-based, and biodegradable hot melt adhesives. Choosing biodegradable adhesives can contribute to a more sustainable future.

Is Glue Biodegradable?

Glue is a commonly used adhesive that helps us stick things together. From repairing broken items to crafting projects, glue is an essential tool in our everyday lives. However, as our society becomes more environmentally conscious, it is important to consider the impact of the products we use, including the biodegradability of glue. In this article, we will explore the different types of glue and their biodegradability, as well as the factors that affect their environmental impact.

What is glue made of?

Glue is typically made from a combination of natural and synthetic ingredients. Common ingredients in glue include water, polymers, resins, solvents, and additives. The chemical composition of glue plays a significant role in determining its biodegradability.

Is glue biodegradable?

The biodegradability of glue can vary depending on the specific type and formulation. Let’s take a closer look at the biodegradability of different types of glue:

Eco-friendly glue sticks

Eco-friendly glue sticks are often made from plant-based materials, such as starch or dextrin. These types of glue sticks are typically biodegradable and compostable, making them a more sustainable choice for adhesive needs.

Glue for plastic

Glue specifically designed for bonding plastic surfaces may not be biodegradable. The chemical composition of these glues often includes strong adhesives that are resistant to biodegradation. It is important to check the label or product information to determine if the glue is biodegradable.

Biodegradable glue recipe

There are recipes available online for making your own biodegradable glue using natural ingredients such as flour, water, and sugar. These homemade glues are often biodegradable and can be a sustainable alternative to commercial glues.

Hot glue

Hot glue, also known as hot melt adhesive, is a type of thermoplastic adhesive that is melted and applied in a liquid form. While hot glue is not considered biodegradable, some manufacturers offer bio-based or biodegradable hot glue options that are more environmentally friendly.

Elmer’s glue

Elmer’s glue, a popular brand of white glue, is not biodegradable. It is made from polyvinyl acetate (PVA), a synthetic polymer that is not easily broken down by natural processes.

Super glue

Super glue, also known as cyanoacrylate adhesive, is not biodegradable. It forms strong bonds quickly and is resistant to moisture and temperature changes, making it less likely to break down naturally.

Gorilla Glue

Gorilla Glue is a strong adhesive known for its versatility and durability. While it is not biodegradable, Gorilla Glue offers some environmentally friendly options, such as their ECO line, which is made from plant-based materials.

PVA glue

PVA glue, or polyvinyl acetate glue, is commonly used in woodworking, paper crafts, and other applications. PVA glue is not biodegradable and can persist in the environment for a long time.

Factors affecting the biodegradability of glue

The biodegradability of glue can be influenced by several factors, including environmental conditions and chemical additives:

Environmental conditions

The rate at which glue biodegrades can vary depending on the conditions it is exposed to. Factors such as temperature, moisture, and the presence of microorganisms can all impact the biodegradation process. Glue that is buried in soil or submerged in water may biodegrade at a different rate than glue exposed to air.

Chemical additives and their impact on biodegradability

Some glues may contain chemical additives that can affect their biodegradability. These additives can include plasticizers, stabilizers, and preservatives, which can make the glue more resistant to biodegradation. Choosing glues that are free from these additives can help ensure a higher level of biodegradability.

Is making glue bad for the environment?

The production of glue can have environmental impacts, particularly when it comes to the extraction and processing of raw materials. Many glues are derived from petroleum-based sources, which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation. Additionally, the energy and water required for production can further contribute to the environmental footprint of glue manufacturing.

However, there are potential alternatives to traditional glue production that can reduce its environmental impact. Some companies are exploring the use of renewable resources, such as plant-based materials, to create more sustainable glues. By prioritizing the use of eco-friendly manufacturing processes and materials, the environmental impact of glue production can be minimized.

Is Elmer’s glue compostable?

Elmer’s glue is not compostable. Composting is a natural process that involves the decomposition of organic matter by microorganisms. However, Elmer’s glue is made from synthetic materials that do not readily break down through composting. It is important to dispose of Elmer’s glue properly, following the guidelines provided by local waste management facilities.

What is the most eco-friendly glue?

When considering eco-friendly glue options, it is important to look for glues that are biodegradable and made from sustainable materials. Some eco-friendly glue options include:

  • Plant-based glues made from materials such as cornstarch, dextrin, or vegetable starch.
  • Water-based glues that do not contain harmful solvents or chemicals.
  • Glues that are certified by reputable eco-labels, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Green Seal.

When choosing an eco-friendly glue, it is also important to consider the specific application and requirements. Factors such as bonding strength, drying time, and compatibility with different materials should be taken into account.

Which adhesive is biodegradable?

There are several biodegradable adhesive options available on the market. These adhesives are designed to break down naturally over time, reducing their environmental impact. Some examples of biodegradable adhesives include:

  • Natural rubber adhesives
  • Starch-based adhesives
  • Water-based adhesives
  • Biodegradable hot melt adhesives

It is important to note that the biodegradability of these adhesives can still be influenced by environmental conditions and other factors. However, choosing biodegradable adhesives can contribute to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly adhesive solution.


Glue is a versatile adhesive that plays a crucial role in our everyday lives. When considering the environmental impact of glue, it is important to choose biodegradable options whenever possible. While not all types of glue are biodegradable, there are eco-friendly alternatives available that can help reduce our ecological footprint. By understanding the different types of glues and their biodegradability, as well as considering the factors that affect their environmental impact, we can make more informed choices and contribute to a more sustainable future. As the demand for environmentally friendly products continues to grow, we can expect further developments in the field of biodegradable glue, providing us with even more sustainable adhesive options in the future.

Question 1:
Answer: Making glue can be bad for the environment, depending on the ingredients and manufacturing process.

Question 2:
Answer: Elmer’s glue is not compostable.

Question 3:
Answer: There are several eco-friendly glues available, such as plant-based or water-based adhesives.

Question 4:
Answer: Some biodegradable adhesives include natural rubber-based glues or starch-based adhesives.


About the author 

Jamie Willson

Hey there, I'm Jamie! As a Climate Scientist from MIT, I've spent years unraveling the complexities of global warming. My work ranges from conducting research on climate impacts to advising on environmental policies. I'm passionate about making the science of climate change accessible and actionable. Join me as we explore practical solutions to one of the biggest challenges facing our planet.