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Water-Soluble’ Bags. Are they really the solution?


When it comes to sustainable packaging, it's easy to get swept up in hopeful claims and glossy brochures. We've all seen the flashy announcements - this new material will finally solve plastic pollution! It's compostable! Marine-safe! Too good to be true? Often yes, unfortunately.



In this article from thecircularlaboratory.com, written by Paula Lorenz she takes a deeper look behind the curtain at one of these supposed wonder materials: PVA plastic. Spoiler alert: the claims around PVA don't quite hold water (pun intended).


Key points:

  • PVA is still a plastic, made from fossil fuel feedstocks. Some suppliers claim it is "not plastic" which is incorrect.

  • The carbon footprint of PVA is estimated to be over 6 times higher than traditional plastic bags made from LDPE.

  • PVA bags are technically recyclable but there is currently no recycling infrastructure to do so.

  • Thinner PVA films can be certified as industrially compostable but thicker bags likely do not meet compostability standards. There is little evidence they break down in home composts.

  • Multiple scientific studies find no evidence that PVA bags will break down in marine environments under natural conditions. The term "marine-safe" is questionable.

  • Suggested end-of-life strategies like dissolving in hot water have a very high carbon footprint compared to disposing PVA.

In summary, the article argues PVA should not be considered a "sustainable solution" to single-use plastics. Claims about its green credentials are overstated and more research is still needed on its end-of-life impacts.



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