Is Jesmonite Sustainable? (What You Should Know)

Megan

Creation is more than the sum of its parts.

That being said, it is important to understand the source and composition of each part in order to assess the overall impact on the environment and your health.

While parts made from substances like plastic are clearly problematic, what about lesser-known alternatives?

One such option is Jesmonite.

Jesmonite is a unique building material with a wide range of uses.

In this article, we will study Jesmonite in more detail to understand the following topics:

  • Background
  • Uses
  • Sustainability
  • Environmental and safety issues
  • Comparison to eco-friendly resins

What Is Jesmonite?

If you want to understand the impact of Jesmonite, you first have to know what it is. Jesmonite is a building material that was developed in 1984 by a company of the same name.

The substance was first created by Peter Hawkins. Hawkins got his start as a joiner, but he soon made a name for himself as an expert in concrete technology. In his experimentation with concrete, he came up with the base formula for Jesmonite.

Since its creation, Jesmonite has become quite popular with builders and artists. It is used as an alternative to other building materials like fiberglass, and it is most commonly compared to resin products in terms of function and appearance.

To make Jesmonite, manufacturers start with gypsum. As the gypsum is processed, it is modified with acrylic to make a unique composite material. Its advantages are numerous:

  • Eco-friendly
  • Durable
  • Sustainable
  • Resilient
  • Versatile

Over time, there have been several specific types of Jesmonite on the market. One variation is AC100. This version serves more general purposes. Given its durability, it is often preferred for outdoor settings.

Other options include AC200 and AC300. Unlike AC100, these two options are better suited for indoor projects.

Finally, AC730 is also on the market right now. AC730 is a substitute for cement. This means it is highly durable and can be used for water features. It is also a good choice if you want a stone finish.

Jesmonite is purchased in powder form. Then, the powder can be prepared with water. During the preparation, other substances can be added to give the Jesmonite a different appearance or texture.

How Is Jesmonite Used?

Although it has been around for more than 30 years, Jesmonite is now gaining a lot of publicity. It was recently named the material of the year at the London Design Fair.

Its popularity can be traced to its versatility.

Jesmonite was first popularized by builders and architects. This is largely because Jesmonite was developed as an alternative to fiberglass.

However, it was not long before other uses for Jesmonite were discovered. Over time, Jesmonite was eventually a preferred choice for models. In particular, Jesmonite was used by archeologists and paleontologists in their sculpted models.

Now, Jesmonite is being used by sculptors, artists and interior designers.

The key is Jesmonite’s adaptability. During the preparation process, it is easy to add pigments, metals and fibers to the mix. Jesmonite can be dyed and polished as well. Artists use Jesmonite to make bowls, trays and more.

Jesmonite is also very easy to manipulate. This makes it malleable, and it is good for cutting, carving and even casting.

When the right pigments are added, Jesmonite can even take on a rock-like appearance. This has made it a popular choice for interior designers. You might find Jesmonite in floor tiles or backsplash designs.

Other interior design applications include tabletops, kitchen fixtures and full wall panels.

The durability of Jesmonite even makes it appropriate for exterior applications. Jesmonite has been used as a substitute for carved stone. This is a particularly popular practice in the Middle East.

Another unexpected application for Jesmonite has been found in Hollywood where it is becoming quite popular in props. This is because Jesmonite can look like many other substances, and it is extremely easy to manipulate.

In fact, Jesmonite was the go-to choice for prop makers during the creation of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Given this range of uses, it is likely that you have seen or used Jesmonite products before. You probably just did not realize what the products were.

Is Jesmonite Sustainable?

In the creation of new products, the aesthetic result is not the only thing that matters. The byproducts of creation are also quite relevant.

To this end, the Jesmonite company is publicly confident in its commitment to sustainability. Jesmonite is made in accordance with BS EN 9001:2015. This standard is recognized internationally as a symbol of quality.

This standard can be an important symbol, but the question of sustainability is one that deserves to be unraveled even more.

To grasp whether or not Jesmonite is sustainable, first look at its composition. Jesmonite is a composite material made from gypsum and then mixed with acrylics.

Gypsum is a natural mineral. It is typically sourced from sedimentary rock. Its chemical composition includes water.

Gypsum is very common. There is no other sulfate mineral found in more abundance on the planet. This adds to the overall sustainability of the end product.

But sustainability is more than a question of access. It is also about methodology. In other words, some providers of gypsum have more sustainable methods.

Therefore, you should understand how gypsum is processed. Gypsum is relatively easy to obtain through surface mining. To process gypsum for manufacturing, it must be crushed, separated and dried.

From here, other sustainable measures can be taken. Gypsum can be processed with recycled materials. Synthetic gypsum can be made with by-products from other industries.

Moreover, gypsum is often sourced near manufacturing facilities. This means that there is minimal need to invest in transportation. This limits costs and environmental output.

Another factor in sustainability is lifespan. It is very important that products are not made to be expendable. Fortunately, the gypsum in Jesmonite has a very good rating on this front.

Gypsum is highly durable and needs very little maintenance. If used properly, it can last for decades even in high-demand settings. This is one reason why Jesmonite is known for its longevity.

Moreover, gypsum also endures against the elements. Gypsum is naturally resistant to fire, which is a property it gives to Jesmonite.

As discussed previously, there are different types of Jesmonite, and each one has a different intended use. As long as the Jesmonite is applied in the proper context, there is every indication that it will endure for decades or longer.

On top of all that, gypsum can be manufactured safely. Gypsum is often lauded for its green building standards. While energy efficiency will vary from plant to plant, many of the newer facilities meet the highest standards.

This takes a variety of forms. In some cases, gypsum plants have adopted co-generated electrical power to minimize energy consumption.

Other examples have incorporated processes that use recycled water. This means that virtually no water is wasted during the entire manufacturing process.

In order to prove sustainability, some gypsum manufacturers have worked with major regulating bodies. Clearly, the gypsum industry is suited to sustainability measures, and there is substantial interest throughout the industry to adopt a green outlook.

This bodes well for the overall sustainability of Jesmonite as well. If the base components are sourced and processed in a sustainable way, then the end product is also going to have a more sustainable impact on the world at large.

While gypsum looks good from a sustainable standpoint, there are more serious concerns about the acrylic. Gypsum is a natural product, but acrylic is a type of plastic.

Obviously, there are huge environmental concerns about plastic. Plastic does not decompose, and it can release many harmful chemicals into the air. However, acrylic is highly durable, which means that its lifespan is long.

In this way, acrylic offers a bit of a tradeoff. It is true that acrylic is not as environmentally friendly, but the fact that it can be employed in a way that gives Jesmonite decades of use is also relevant. In Jesmonite, the acrylic base helps create a sturdy and pliable product.

Therefore, while acrylic is a significant drawback of Jesmonite, it does not necessarily eradicate all of Jesmonite’s sustainable properties.

How Environmentally Friendly Is Jesmonite?

After considering the overall sustainability of Jesmonite, it is also a good idea to look at its immediate effect on the environment.

Overall, Jesmonite is considered one of the more environmentally friendly options within the building community.

This starts with the fact that it is water-based. This means that water is a large component of the product. This is compared to other substances like oil, which are far more damaging to the environment.

Because Jesmonite is water-based, it is also processed more safely. In manufacturing and processing oil, it is dangerous when volatile organic compounds are released as a gas into the environment. Jesmonite’s water-base does not have any such side effects.

In fact, when you look back at the historical context behind the development of Jesmonite, the environment was of particular concern. Jesmonite was recommended as an alternative to fiberglass in many contexts.

Given the environmental complexity of fiberglass, Jesmonite was adopted in order to better adhere to new environmental standards in the 1970s and 1980s.

Is Jesmonite Safe?

With any building material, safety is a primary concern. As we just discussed, Jesmonite grew in popularity as a safer alternative to products like fiberglass. Fiberglass and other similar substances can be highly irritating, and they can be dangerous when inhaled.

Jesmonite is considered safe by most experts. Its lightweight form does not emit toxic fumes, and there are no documented health risks associated with Jesmonite.

Accordingly, there are fewer safety measures that must be taken when using Jesmonite. Many artists and designers appreciate the fact that full-body protective gear is not necessary with Jesmonite.

That being said, it is still recommended to take basic safety precautions. For the safest usage of Jesmonite, it is important to work in a space with good ventilation. This allows for sufficient airflow.

If using large amounts of Jesmonite, you may want to wear a mask. This is especially important when using abrasives with Jesmonite as small particles might be created.

In addition to these measures, it is recommended to use neoprene gloves when working with your hands. If you do sustain skin contact, you should wash the area. Soap and water are perfectly sufficient.

Eye irritation is also possible. Any contact with the eyes should be treated promptly. Irritation usually clears up quickly, but it can be treated by a medical professional if it persists.

Is Jesmonite an Eco-Resin?

As you think about Jesmonite and its applications, it should be considered alongside other similar products.

While we have already looked at Jesmonite as an alternative to fiberglass, it is important to note that Jesmonite is more commonly considered with eco-resins.

Many people assume that Jesmonite is an eco-resin, but the idea needs further exploration.

Eco-resins are polymers that are made without solvents. They are non-toxic and renewable. As our discussion has already proven, Jesmonite shares many of these properties.

However, because Jesmonite uses acrylic, its classification as an eco-resin is somewhat up for debate.

What Is Resin?

To better understand the topic, look more carefully at what resin is in general. Resin is derived from plastic. This means that it has the pliability and durability of plastic.

Resins are noted for being easy to mold. This is why they are popular in manufacturing and crafting. Resin can be placed into a mold while in liquid form and allowed to harden into a usable product.

Resins have many things in common, but they can have different bases. If the base of the resin is oil, then it can be quite dangerous to the environment. It may release VOCs or contaminate the ground or water supply.

These inherent risks are a large reason why eco-resins have been developed. Since eco-resins use water instead of oil, they are far safer for the environment. This is why they have warranted their name.

In this understanding of resins, Jesmonite has more in common with eco-resins than traditional petroleum-based options.

What Are Bio-Resins?

A third classification of resins is known as bio-resins. Bio-resins are made from natural plants and vegetables. This means that they are entirely renewable.

Many bio-resins are made specifically from corn or soybeans. There are many positive things about bio-resins, but the production of such resins is still limited. This means that costs are high and accessibility is low.

Jesmonite is not a bio-resin, but its production is far more established. Without a wider manufacturing process, bio-resins have questionable sustainability. Jesmonite, on the other hand, has a clear sustainable benefit right now.

Is Resin Eco-Friendly?

These distinctions are only important if there is an advantage to using eco-resins. The science clearly supports this notion.

Scientists have explored the impact of eco-resins. A major study conducted jointly by the University of Wales and Cambridge University showed palpable environmental gains from eco-resins. For every ton of eco-resin, a half-ton of carbon dioxide emissions is neutralized.

Some upcoming bio-resins may neutralize up to seven tons of carbon dioxide for every ton of resin being produced. This clearly shows that eco-resins and bio-resins will play an important part in reducing environmental risk.

As these resins become more accessible and more widely used, sustainability factors will continue to be developed. Given this wide range of benefits, Jesmonite can play a significant role in the future of sustainable building and crafting.

What Type of Resin Should I Use?

There are more than 12 types of resins. Each one has distinctive uses and applications.

Polyester resin, for instance, is used in laminate, skis and ship components. Phenolic resins are commonly used in electronics. Epoxy resin is popular for adhesives and coatings.

Jesmonite is not necessarily a substitute in all of these contexts. Therefore, you have to look carefully at your needs in order to make sure that Jesmonite is the best fit.

However, if it is a question between Jesmonite and other eco-resins, then be sure to consider other factors. Look at the sustainability and safety considerations of each product.

Because Jesmonite has been on the market for so long, its manufacturing is established and streamlined. This helps promote sustainability and affordability, which is one reason why you may want to pick Jesmonite over other resins.

Bio-resins may be more environmentally friendly, but their limited production can limit accessibility. Because of this, their sustainability is not established.

Conclusion

Creation may be more than the sum of its parts, but the parts still matter.

That is why you should look for versatile and durable products that promote sustainability.

Jesmonite can offer you all of these advantages. Therefore, it deserves your consideration for your next building or artistic project.

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