Water-soluble ‘plastic’ may reduce ocean pollution


A major threat​

Plastic pollution is considered a major threat to oceans worldwide.

During World Oceans Day on June 8, Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, called on the world to stop plastic pollution contaminating the oceans.

Eighty percent of all pollution in the sea comes from the land, including about 8 million tons of plastic waste every year, which has resulted in the deaths of 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals.

Besides Chile, Britain is set to ban all sales of single-use plastics, including plastic straws and cotton swabs. Kenya and Morocco already have similar restrictions.

“Bags are just the start. We can also use modified PVA to make glass lids, straws and diapers, and to replace products made from petrochemical plastics,” Astete said.

“My country is small but the people share a similar goal-to have a beautiful, clean environment. It’s also the aspiration of all humanity.”

One interesting example for this is the British outdoor brand Finisterre. A major producer of PVA for plastic bag applications, whose material is known for being used to make water soluble film suppliers polybags used by Finisterre (amongst others), describes its PVA as a plastic. In the marketing copy for the Finisterre polybag, the brand highlights that it is “different to traditional plastics” while being careful to never explicitly state that the bag isn’t plastic. Their main claim however is that this new plastic bag is “eliminating the final piece of single-use, non-degradable plastic from our packaging”. This claim is questionable by most definitions though (including the EU’s Single-Use Plastic Directive), as this is still a single-use plastic product. It is used once, it is made from a plastic, and it is disposed of at the end of its life. Isn’t that the definition of a single-use plastic?

In fact, this is a key issue with the marketing of PVA-based hot water-soluble polybags: that they are suggested to be a solution to single-use plastics. This is certainly a bold claim which needs further scrutiny.

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