An environmental coalition and the green home products brand Blueland are asking the Environmental Protection Agency to limit PVA film used in billions of laundry and dishwasher pods each year, saying they contribute to microplastic pollution.
New York-based Blueland, along with the Plastic Pollution Coalition, Beyond Plastics and others, are asking EPA in a Nov. 15 petition to limit polyvinyl alcohol plastic film in the increasingly popular laundry pods format, as well as in other consumer packaging broadly.
The groups also want EPA to remove PVA from the agency's "Safer Choice" program, a public list of materials the agency provides consumers to certify, in the words of the program's website, products that are "safer for human health and the environment."
The environmental coalition points to research — including what it calls a first-of-its-kind study commissioned by Blueland and done by Plastic Oceans International — showing that PVA film does not readily biodegrade after use and that 75 percent of it can escape from city water treatment plants.
That study, which was also written by researchers at Arizona State University, said PVA, which is also called PVOH, is one of the "most ubiquitous pollutants in wastewater" from its use in a variety of industries, including in textiles, paints, meat packaging, glues and pharmaceuticals.
However, the Washington-based American Cleaning Institute, which represents the cleaning products supply chain, said the study does not accurately represent what happens in wastewater treatment plants to process PVA, and it dramatically overestimates the amount used in pods.
ACI said the PVA films used in laundry and detergent packets are not microplastics because they fully dissolve in water and "are fully biodegraded by microorganisms in water treatment facilities and the environment."
"The hypothesis laid out in this single paper that Blueland and some of the other groups rely on really contradicts decades worth of science and ignores some of the product design and test methods used by manufacturers," said Brian Sansoni, ACI senior vice president of communications, outreach and membership.
Yash Parulekar, associate director of stewardship, sustainability and regulatory at PVA maker Monosol LLC, said in an interview arranged by ACI that market reports show much less PVA used in detergent pods than the petition estimates.
"They used a number that is about three times higher than anybody ever pulled out," he said. Monosol is part of Tokyo-based Kuraray Group.