Plastic microbeads are tiny spheres of PP or PE added as abrasives to personal care products like face scrubs, shower gels and toothpaste. They not only wash down the drain, but because of their small size, escape sewage treatment plants, getting discharged into the water bodies. These PE/PP/PET microbeads do not biodegrade, especially in aquatic environments. Also, since they resemble fish eggs, they are likely to be ingested by aqua/ marine life. This, along with increasing consumer demand for environmentally friendly personal care ingredients, is leading to development of several marine biodegradable biopolymers. A few are being discussed:
Metabolix Inc. has entered into a global, exclusive commercial and technology alliance with Honeywell to offer new marine-biodegradable biopolymers for use in cosmetics and personal care products. Through the alliance, Metabolix's Mirel polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) biopolymers will be developed as part of Honeywell's Asensa line of personal care additives that are used in a variety of end-use applications ranging from lipsticks to moisturizers to pressed powders. Using these biopolymers will help address pending legislation in the United States focused on replacing synthetic, non-biodegradable microbeads, as well as global demand for biobased and biodegradable alternatives. The technology is intended to meet increasing regulatory and other requirements around the world for personal care microbeads that biodegrade in marine and fresh water environments. Using applicable ASTM test methods, the marine biodegradability of these biopolymers has been shown to be similar to that of cellulose and paper, and is faster than other commercially available biodegradable polymers. Metabolix’s product, corn dextrose is the feedstock the company is using for now. PHAs have a similar composition to cellulose or paper, and have the ability to break down exponentially quicker than plastic microbeads. These microbeads can biodegrade 80% within 14 to 18 days in water and in soil. They attract bacteria that see them as a source of food, hastening the biodegrading process. The microbeads are also compostable and do not release toxic substances once they enter a marine environment.
Minerv Bio Cosmetics, the 100% bioplastic has been developed to replace the microbeads in cosmetics that pollute the seas and are now prohibited in many countries. hese microbeads are made from PHAs and specially designed for the cosmetics sector. A new plant of Bio-on will start production in 2018. The plastic micro particles (known as microbeads) currently used as thickeners or stabilisers in such widely used products as lipstick, lip gloss, mascara, eye-liner, nail polish, creams, shampoo, foam bath and even toothpaste pollute the environment because once they are rinsed off after use, they become a permanent part of the natural cycle: plankton in the rivers and seas swallow these microscopic plastic particles and thus introduce them into the food chain. The level of pollution is so serious that the USA government has decided to bring in a law (Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015) banning the use of oil-based polymers in body care products. This decision was recently followed by other countries.
The use in cosmetics products of Minerv PHA Bio Cosmetics eliminates these pollutants because the micro particles of bioplastic are naturally biodegradable in water and, therefore, do not enter the food chain. What is more, the biopolymer developed at the Bio-on laboratories actually decomposes into a nutrient for some micro-organisms and plants present in nature. The benefit for the environment is therefore two-fold.
Bio-on has also discovered that, within a given cosmetics product, Minerv PHA Bio Cosmetics bioplastic (formulation type C1) is capable of binding active molecules and antioxidants, such as Coenzyme Q10, vitamins, proteins, and active substances in general, transporting them naturally to parts of the body where cosmetics products are normally applied. After having located the active substance where it must act, the micro particles of bioplastic are naturally washed off or absorbed without a trace. Bio-on bioplastics are made from renewable plant sources, some of which is waste, with no competition with food supply chains, and are 100% naturally biodegradable. Bio-on owns the entire technological process for production and use of the various grades of PHAs and applies the Intellectual property business model strategy. The PHA has been certified by Vincotte and by USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). The Issuer’s strategy envisages the marketing of licenses for PHAs production and related ancillary services, the development of R&D (also through new collaborations with universities, research centres and industrial partners), as well as the realisation of industrial plants designed by Bio-On.
In Canada, TerraVerdae BioWorks has announced a line of biodegradable, natural microspheres for use in personal care and cosmetic products, as a direct replacement for synthetic, non-degradable plastic microbeads that are currently the subject of restrictive legislation throughout the world. These natural microspheres are a PHA-based biomaterial produced using a non- GMO, non-toxic, plant-associated process. Unlike other biomaterials that require a compost environment to degrade, they are intrinsically biodegradable and meet the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) industry standards for biodegradation in a marine environment. TerraVerdae can produce microspheres in a range of sizes, in both smooth and coarse finishes, that feature high optical clarity and the mechanical characteristics to meet all requirements for cosmetic formulations.