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).
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.