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Biodegradable Alternatives to Microplastic

At BioPowder.com, we have a clear goal: to provide biodegradable and compostable additives to as alternatives to microplastics. The environmental impact of plastics in numerous consumer goods can no longer be neglected due to obvious damages to the world's ecosystems. There are many sources of plastic ending up in the waters and hence in our food chain: abrasion of tyres, shoe soles, unrecycled waste and cosmetic items, just to name a few. Even the most conscious consumers are involuntary culprits of nature's contamination, so the quest for ecological alternatives could not be a stronger priority.

Even biodegradable microplastics, i.e. microbeads made from degradable bio-polymers, are not a viable option to prevent plastic contamination of the environment. This is because many so-called bioplastics are not compostable but only degradable through industrial processes. In contrast to the common misconception that bio-based polymers would safely degrade, they require resource-intensive recycling. Being derived from plant-based raw materials instead of petroleum, bio-plastics have doubtlessly been an advancement in material science. This fact, however, does not spare the industry from efforts to minimize waste by adopting natural plastic alternatives. 

Microplastic alternatives for the cosmetic industry

Traditionally, a variety of skincare items have contained micrometric spheres or beads for different reasons: either as fillers to reduce mass and price of gels, cremes and makeup products, or as exfoliating beads, i.e. abrasive particles for a deep cleansing effect. Also, certain micropolymers are effective rheology modifiers and sensory agents used to create characteristic texture effects in personal care items.

Up to the recent past, manufacturers have not taken into account the challenges of recycling, and legal barriers were close to absent. Fortunately things have changed: in the United States, the Microbead-Free Waters Act (2015) prohibits the addition of plastic particles to most personal care items. In Europe, the Microbeads (Prohibition) Bill of 2019 forbids production, commercialization and export of wash-off cosmetics containing microplastic. Hence, natural alternatives to polypropylene for body scrubs, face scrubs, hand cleaners and other rinse-off items are on the rise. The same goes for polyurethane beads or polyurethane flour in heavy-duty cleaners and similar industrial cleaning media. BioPowder.com offers tailored solutions for biodegradable alternatives to plastic, above all olive stone exfoliators in various micron ranges.

Our natural beads (alternatives to microplastics) integrate with nearly every PE- or PU-based formulation and add advantages such as

  • Safety: all our biodegradable alternatives to plastic are non-toxic and compostable. Neither human ingestion nor rinse-off into the sewage lines are problematic.
  • Color: the light, clean particles in replacement for plastic are excellent carriers of pigments and can be bleached and/or whitened.
  • Particle shape: our microplastic alternatives have a compact grain shape without sharp edges, which ensures a pleasant skin feel and sensory effects similar to the ones created with polymeric powders.
  • Zero-waste guarantee: all raw materials used in our microplastic alternatives come from upcycled olive oil and/or fruit-processing waste. No waste is generated during manufacturing.
  • Maximum sustainability and absence of chemicals: the solutions we offer in replacement for plastic / as microplastic alternatives are made with purely mechanical processing techniques.

An in-depth article on microplastic alternatives in personal care can be found here: https://www.bio-powder.com/en/biodegradable-alternatives-microplastic/microplastic-replacement-personal-care-products

Microplastic alternatives as functional fillers and sensory agents

A wide range of personal care items contain plastic powders as filler materials. Often in combination with the aforementioned abrasive beads, powdery polyethylene or polypropylene additives are added to toothpastes, body washes, soap, cleaning products and household chemicals. This occurs for a number of reasons, especially to ensure a certain texture and/or viscosity, for film formation, binding effects or simply to add mass. For all those applications, we provide fine micronized fruit stones as effective and biodegradable alternatives to plastic. Our filler solutions are suitable for solid and viscuous formulations. In contrast to inert plastic fillers, any BioPowder.com replacement for plastic is reactive with antioxidant properties (OH-groups), a strong binding capacity and excellent carrying behaviour for fragrances.

Microplastic alternatives for coatings and composite materials

In addition, our powders are biodegradable alternatives to plastic powders which have replaced synthetic fillers and fibers in a number of composite materials. No matter what your intended texture, shape or size might be - we have the right microplastic alternatives to enhance material properties and recyclability of diverse polymer systems.   
Most recently, BioPowder.com has launched FP (Functional Powder) H50 and H100: this line of hydrophobic olive stone powders is a very effective matting agent for paints and coatings. They can be used as natural alternatives to polypropylene, polythene or polyurethane micropowders in proven formulations where they have demonstrated excellent results and enhanced efficiency. Furthermore, our biodegradable alternatives to plastic powders are suitable as a matting pigments in innovative bio-based coatings. Research has shown that, even when incorporated in doses as low as 1%, the matting/opacifying effect can outperform the effect of conventional and biodegradable microplastics. 

There is endless room for innovation, and BioPowder.com additives have proven to enhance texture, tensile strength, bending behaviour and resistance of material mixes used in injection molding or extrusion processes. Besides, they their characteristic composition makes them eco-friendly HDPE alternatives in polymer formulations for high-density materials.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about microplastic alternatives

1. Are there alternatives to microplastics?

Yes, definitely. As this article illustrates there are not only mineral (mined) alternatives to microplastics but a number of plant-based, biodegradable alternatives to plastic. Made entirely from renewable resources, powders made from olive stones and other by-products tick all the boxes of today's sustainability requirements: they are made from agricultural side-streams in a waste-reducing, mechanical manufacturing process. Hence, there is neither any competition with the food chain nor the need for additives, fossil fuels or high amounts of drinking water. 

2. Can we get rid of microplastics?

Absolutely. From the perspective of a manufacturer, there are many arguments in favor of natural alternatives to plastic. Apart from the environmental aspect, the growing consumer demand for biodegradable and ecological products is a major driving force of positive change. Whenever a brand owner or contract manufacturer decides to use a biodegradable alternative to plastic such as fruit stone powders as alternatives to polypropylene, it boosts their attractiveness among a conscious target audience. It is statistically proven that environmentalists prioritize quality over price, which creates opportunities for manufacturers to enter a less price-sensitive, upmarket customer segment.  

3. Can you avoid microplastics?

Yes and yes. Both, consumers and manufacturers can always opt for microplastic alternatives. The more consumers become conscious about the polymers in cosmetic products, the stronger the pressure for producers and brand owners to use natural plastic alternative. The market has already adopted biodegradable alternatives to plastic in a variety of end products, and market forecasts predict enormous growth of plastic-free, compostable products in the coming years. 

 4. What is the best alternative for plastic?

Certainly the material that is resource saving, locally sourced, free of chemicals and waste-reducing. In cosmetic applications, any plant based alternatives to microplastics are generally the best choice. Besides certain mineral products, they are versatile in use and - besides being a replacement for plastic - they are proven components of biodegradable microplastics. The latter are polymers made from renewable resources, i.e. so-called bio-plastics. However, biodegradable microplastics are powders and particles which are not necessarily compostable but might require industrial recycling, which makes them less attractive as microplastic alternatives for personal care products.

5. Is polypropylene bad for the environment?

There is no concluding answer due to the complexity and variety of plastic / polypropylene applications. In simple terms, it can be said that plastic should be replaced in cosmetic items, i.e. manufacturer should use microplastic alternatives. In material science applications, there are different approaches to tackling the challenge of waste, which is the main reason why the industry looks at natural plastic alternatives. Plastic is derived from petroleum and most plastic items (especially in the global South) are not yet professionally recycled. Hence, it is the culprit of pollution and contamination of our waters and food chain.   

6. Is there a plastic that is biodegradable?

Yes, the market offers a wide range of so-called bioplastics. In most cases, the term is a bit misleading as those plastics are not compostable, i.e. do not degrade when dumped in the environment. Rather, bioplastics are industrially degradable, which requires professional recycling and consistent collection in order to be sustainable. When it comes to microplastic alternatives, it is better to use plant-based ingredients in replacement for plastic. Although there are biodegradable microplastics, the disposable nature of cosmetics makes retrieval and recycling very difficult. Hence, also the term biodegradable plastic replacement can be misleading as biodegradable does not necessarily mean compostable.

 

If you have further questions on microplastic alternatives or seek a biodegradable alternative plastic, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. Please also read our application sections for further guidance on alternatives to microplastics in cosmetics, paints and coatings, composite materials and other innovative end products. The BioPowder.com team is pleased to assist you in finding the best replacement for plastic.