Ghost Microplastics

September 1, 2023 – Some plastics that we commonly use in our households are not water bearing. Another difference from the clear polyethylene terephtalate or PET used for water bottles, polyvinyl alcohol or PVA is a dissolvable plastic.

After watching commercials about saving water and eliminating plastic jugs of detergent, I was “soaked” into ordering detergent strips. I thought I could use Watt-Ahh to dissolve the detergent strips to boost the cleaning power. As soon as I reached into the packaging, the strips had a greasy feel and I realized it was a plastic. I read about dissolvable PVA does not completely biodegradable and remains in water supplies (and likely on our clothes). Dissolved PVA plastic is like a ghost that does not completely disappear.

Several years ago, we tried detergent pods. I inquired about the small bits of plastic that remained on our clothes. According to the customer service for the product, she recommended that I should not toss in the pod on top of our clothes but instead place the pod first at the bottom of the wash basin before adding our clothes. The pod at the bottom of the wash basin is supposedly exposed to water for dissolving.

We have been using dishwasher pods for many years, mainly powder neither seems to totally dissolve well in our well hard-water nor gives a spot-free squeaky-clean feel on the surface of our dishes and drinking glasses.

Another type of plastic, PLA or polylactic acid, is partially derived from plant sources but is not a stable material to store liquid over time. PLA is not water bearing and another concern is that it requires high-temperature boiling before decomposing. The beverage industry, after mega funding, has not been successful with PLA-plastic bottles. PLA also would not be a good option to carry detergent liquids and will not dissolve in warm wash water.

The plastic used for vitamin capsules that we swallow is considered a “bioplastic” and is digestible. The majority of capsule plastic is made from gelatin, a biopolymer derived from pig collagen, along with other materials (HPMC, Hydroxypropyl methylcellulose or Hypromellose and Pullulan) are derived from plants.

Back to the Ghost Microplastics

We recently received inquiries from customers about microplastics in their reaction to recent articles. Unfortunately, microplastics is ubiquitous in our municipal drinking water and oceans. Non-biodegradable microplastics are coming from our kitchens and laundry rooms. I will not be reordering detergent strips (the cleaning did not seem better when compared to liquid detergent and I can pour some Watt-Ahh into the wash basin to “spike” a more active clean). Instead, we are back using liquid detergent and we hope the empty detergent containers will be recycled or better yet, upcycled someday into fuel.