NEW YORK—Blueland and Plastic Pollution Coalition announced their formal action to petition the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate the use of plastic film (PVA) in consumer-packaged goods, including all laundry detergent pods and sheets by requesting health and environmental safety tests of Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA), and removing it from the Safer Choice List and Safer Chemical Ingredients List until the EPA can complete the requested health and environmental safety testing. They are joined in this petition by Made Safe, Beyond Plastics, Plastic Oceans International, 5 Gyres, Lonely Whale, and the Shaw Institute and hope to garner support from the public with their petition.
This announcement follows first-of-its-kind research published in the International Journal of Environmental and Public Health, conducted by researchers at Plastic Oceans International and commissioned by Blueland on the plastic film used in plastic PVA laundry and dishwasher pods. The study shows that over 75 percent of intact plastic particles from laundry and dishwasher pods can be released into our oceans, rivers, canals, and soil, highlighting that pods are plastic and not readily biodegradable. In addition to laundry detergent pods and sheets, PVA is widely used to produce a wide range of consumer goods such as fishing gear and hospital laundry bags.
“When we started our research into the laundry category, we were shocked to learn that the film that individually wraps laundry pods is actually plastic. And, even more surprising was how many industry veterans knew these pods were not readily biodegradable, given they were made of petroleum-based synthetic plastic, and yet they continued to encourage their use of it. Their reasoning was there no official research on what actually happened to plastic pods after a wash cycle and thus brands who used it would be safe from scrutiny,” says Sarah Paiji Yoo, Blueland Co-Founder. “We spent more than over a year speaking with universities, NGOs, and scientists to try to find a way to launch the first study to learn the ultimate fate of these plastic pods. Given billions of plastic pods are sent down our drains each year, we felt it was critical that we understand how they may impact our natural environment.”
Blueland’s Goal: Setting a Higher Standard
Pushing the industry for change is part of Blueland’s DNA—from taking a stance on ingredients that are better for both planet and people, to calling for transparency in business and awareness of greenwashing claims, the brand is always a driving force behind the progress seen in their category. Petitioning the EPA is just one of the ways the brand is working towards setting a higher standard for the home-cleaning industry.
“We are thrilled to join forces with our Coalition member Blueland to help raise awareness around PVA and take action to prevent additional plastics and toxic chemicals from entering our environment and bodies. We want everyone to understand in simple terms that Pods are Plastic, and PVA—like all plastics—threaten the health of people and the planet,” says Julia Cohen, MPH, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Plastic Pollution Coalition. “This new study commissioned by Blueland is a giant step toward setting the record straight on PVA plastic. We ask the EPA to review the research, understand the findings, and eliminate PVA from the Safer Choice List, and prohibit the use of PVA in consumer-packaged goods.”
PVA laundry pods and sheets are collectively a $10 billion industry in the U.S. alone and while they have often been labeled as an eco-friendly solution, this research suggests otherwise. Over 20 billion plastic laundry and dishwasher pods and sheets are estimated to be used every year—but this plastic will not disappear. All laundry and dishwasher pods and sheets are made of PVA that is not readily biodegradable, which is problematic when plastic pods are manufactured to be sent down our drains into our water systems.
Pods Have Become the Standard
PVA laundry and dishwasher pods have become the standard for single-dose detergent, and PVA laundry “dissolvable” sheets are a new detergent format that has also gained significant traction and popularity over the past several years.
Further, these products massage a false image of sustainability by touting PVA can be packaged in paper boxes. However, these brands are not disclosing the key fact that PVA pods and sheets themselves are plastic that may dissolve but not truly disappear.
In wastewater, studies have demonstrated that PVA has the potential to absorb dangerous chemicals or contaminants, antibiotics, and heavy metals at high concentrations and then work their way up the food chain. Recent studies have even found PVA in human breast milk. The subject requires further research on the potential impacts on human and environmental health which is why Blueland is petitioning the EPA to do extensive health and environmental safety tests on PVA and remove it from the Safer Choice List until those tests are complete and proven safe.