What is Polyvinyl Alcohol?
Polyvinyl alcohol (PVA or PVOH) is a synthetic polymer that completely dissolves in water. It is commonly found in everyday items that range from laundry detergent to eye drops and even in skincare products. While there has been a lot of confusion due to the conflicting studies about PVA and how it affects the environment, it is important that we take an in-depth look at the material and why it is a climate-friendly ingredient. Polyvinyl alcohol could sound unknown to some people which is why it raises questions and concerns.
Polyvinyl Alcohol and its Environmental Impact
To help you learn more about polyvinyl alcohol and its effects on the environment and health, here are answers to some commonly asked questions about the ingredient so that you can get a better understanding of the science behind it.
Is Polyvinyl Alcohol toxic?
Polyvinyl alcohol is a non-toxic, colorless and odorless biodegradable polymer that is safe to use and safe to consume. Since the polyvinyl alcohol films on products are designed in such a way that makes them readily dissolve as intended, there are some unique features to avoid spillage and ensure consumer safety. This includes the soluble film being designed to not dissolve and rupture prematurely (e.g. when put into the mouth); to resist compression (e.g. when squeezed by a child); and to trigger an aversive reaction in case of oral contact. Not only is PVA safe for cleaning purposes, but it is also approved by the Food and Drug Administration to be used in food packaging and pharmaceutical applications.
Is PVA a microplastic?
PVA film has no evidence of containing microplastics. There is also a lack of evidence that it causes microplastic contamination. A microplastic is defined as small plastic pieces less than five millimeters long which can be harmful to our ocean and aquatic life. Since the film size is out of the microplastic range and is both water-soluble and biodegradable, it is not a microplastic. The high water solubility in itself implies that the films are not within the microplastic scope.
Is PVA compostable and biodegradable?
PVA is confirmed to be biodegradable, not compostable. The difference between biodegradable and compostable is that biodegradable refers to materials that break down naturally while compostable materials require a specific setting in order to break down.
Polyvinyl alcohol is created to be completely biodegradable. Since PVA is water-soluble, it dissolves in the wash and flows with the waste water down the drains. It is then consumed by bacterial microorganisms to break down the dissolved film through natural biodegradation, leaving nothing behind. Studies from the American Cleaning Institute show that at least 60% of PVA film biodegrades within 28 days of dissolving with about 100% of the film biodegrading in 90 days or less.
How does PVA affect the environment?
The biodegradability of PVA film ensures that there is no concern for persistence or accumulation in the environment. They do not contaminate the recycling stream and it doesn’t break down into microplastics. The PVA cycle ends once it is naturally biodegraded by the organisms in the waste water. This is why many companies use PVA film as an ingredient for their products to help reduce their environmental footprint.
Do MamaP products contain PVA?
Polyvinyl alcohol is an ingredient used in MamaP Laundry Detergent Sheets. The polyvinyl alcohol film allows our laundry sheets to be able to completely dissolve in hot or cold water since PVA is water-soluble and biodegradable. That along with other ingredients such as water, glycerol, trisodium citrate, saponins, lavender essential oil, and more, allows us to provide a carefully formulated laundry detergent to ensure that it would be safe for your skin and the planet. Our mission is not only to be climate friendly but also to provide products that are safe and clean.
We believe that it is important to inform people about the ingredients in our products so that you can make the right decisions for yourself and the planet. Using polyvinyl alcohol allows us to make a simple household chore a lot more earth-friendly!