We regularly receive requests to add detergent pods and laundry sheets in our store, so we figured this topic was worth a full blog post!
We do not sell detergent pods and laundry sheets, never have, and here's why.
Some laundry sheets are made in China (isn't it really far away for a laundry detergent?), others contain synthetic fragrances and known irritants (Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate is another name for Sodium Lauryl Sulfate), most of them are more expensive than refilling your laundry powder or liquid in our store.
But there's another reason why these products are not on our shelves.
Detergent pods and laundry sheets are made from a plastic called PVA/PVOH (polyvinyl alcohol) and release microplastics in the water.
"PVA presence in the environment, regardless of its matrix, is a threat to the ecosystem due to the potential mobilization of heavy metals and other hydrophilic contaminants."
Detergent pods for washing machines and dishwashers leak up to 75% of their PVA into the environment. Graphic: Dr. Charlie Rolsky and Plastic Oceans International.
Detergent pods and sheets claim to be eco-friendly and plastic-free. Product transparency is extremely important to us, that's why we did some research to understand what was going on. Here's what we learned.
1- PVA/PVOH is a plastic (different names, same molecule)
It’s mostly made from petroleum products, meaning its production generates air pollution and is a risk for communities living near production sites. That’s a reason good enough to avoid products made with PVA.
2 - Water Soluble is not Biodegradable. PVA contributes to water and soil pollution.
PVA dissolves in the water, but it doesn't disappear or readily biodegrade. It's like sugar in water: you don't see it anymore but you can sure taste it.
A lot of studies show that PVA can break down in very specific conditions, but what matters is biodegradability in real life conditions.
In the US, wastewater treatment plants do not have the conditions required to fully breakdown PVA. As a result, 75% of intact plastic particles from these pods and sheets are released into our oceans, rivers and soil, where they contribute to pollution just like all the other types of microplastics.
Once in the water, PVA particles have the potential to absorb dangerous chemicals and contaminants, antibiotics, or heavy metals at high concentrations and then work their way up the food chain. PVA has recently been found in drinking water and human breast milk.
4- PVA can be made from corn. However, PVA is PVA whether it’s made from corn or petroleum-based. Bio-based does not mean biodegradable.
We have never offered products made with PVA and we will continue to do so for all the reasons above. We may reconsider when manufacturers come up with a solution that isn’t made from fossil fuels and readily biodegrades when it ends up in the environment. These manufacturers should also be able to prove the full biodegradability of their products through a trusted third party certification.
Please sign this petition to the EPA
An estimated 20 billion pods and sheets are used in the US every year. And manufacturers are developing more products with PVA. This contributes to large scale plastic pollution. It's time to put an end to it!
Demand the EPA to regulate the use of PVA in consumer packaged goods and keep this plastic film out of our water and soil.
This petition was started by BlueLand and co-signed by experts and leaders in the global movement against plastic pollution: Plastic Pollution Coalition, Beyond Plastics, 5Gyres, The Shaw Institute, Lonely Whale, Plastic Oceans International, Oceanic Global, RGISC, The Last Beach Cleanup, and Friends of the Earth.
Feel free to contact us by email if you have any questions, and thank you for reading this more-complex-than-usual post!