How safe is the T-shirt you got from your herbicide rep? For that matter, how safe are the key chain, the mug and the bagful of other logo-imprinted items you picked up at the last farm show?
Actually, the items themselves are safe. It's the cleanup process that occurs after the logos are printed that isn't so great for the environment, not to mention the people doing the cleaning, says Mark Henneberry.
Henneberry is vice president of Franmar, a Bloomington, IL- based solvent manufacturer whose latest product, Bean-e-Doo, was produced with support from the United Soybean Board.
Bean-e-Doo is a solvent made with 97.5% soybean methyl ester. It's part of an entire line of soybean-containing solvents that Franmar is currently marketing to the screen printing industry. Screen printers use about 123 million gallons of solvents annually. Most of these are petroleum-based, the least toxic of which is mineral spirits. As such, they pose hazards to air, health and water quality.
But Henneberry isn't counting on soybeans alone to sell Franmar's product line.
"We've been selling to the screen printing industry since 1982, and we are currently one of the top companies," he says. "Any new-use product has to have a successful company in that field behind it. That's what made soy crayons a success, and that's what initially caused soy ink to have problems."
According to Henneberry, the issue for his clients is performance.
"My clients want to know how it will affect the bottom line. They also want to know how a product will affect employee morale. But, ultimately, the product has to perform."
Bean-e-Doo is receiving rave reviews from Europe and is one of the first soy-based solvents to meet California's stringent South Coast Air Quality Management standards.
But Henneberry is realistic about the product's potential.
"Bean-e-Doo won't clean every type of ink; that's why we have other soy-containing solvents in the line. They don't have as much soy, but they all contain some amount," he says.
And, 123 million gallons isn't a big market. Because of this, Franmar hopes to build expertise in the much-bigger paper printing industry. Until then, Henneberry's looking at existing outlets for Bean-e-Doo.
"It will clean almost anything, so we're looking at applications ranging from those in the automotive industry to parts washers on farms."
In the meantime, Franmar isn't likely to run out of a source of soy esters, which are a byproduct of glycerin manufacturing. Soy diesel is not using the large quantities of soy esters as was once projected. That has left a surplus - and created opportunities for companies like Franmar.