Industries from food to packaging worldwide have been tackling the problems linked to single-use plastic for the past few years. Following the impending launch of the European Commission’s Single-Use Plastics Directive (SUPD), which includes EU-wide regulations targeting the top ten single-use products, awareness for sustainable alternatives is growing.
Plastic, particularly single-use plastic, has an enormous adverse effect on the planet. From bottles to bags, cutlery and straws, plastic has become an integral part of our daily life. Simultaneously, plastic waste heavily pollutes ecosystems around the world, contributing to greenhouse gas production and putting a strain on global waste management systems. Researchers estimate that more than 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced since the early 1950s. Approximately 60% of that plastic has ended up in landfills or in the natural environment, wreaking havoc on the planet as it takes most plastics, which are made using chemicals derived from oil, natural gas, coal and non-renewable fossil fuels, at least 450 years to decompose.
The rate of plastic production has increased quicker than the production of any other material, shifting from long-lasting products to those which are only used once. This shift to single-use plastic has done more than harm only the environment. Microplastics are so small that they have been found in water systems, soil and wildlife such as fish, birds and bears and even inside the human body. These microplastics can accumulate with time and cause irreversible harm.
As awareness concerning plastic pollution increases, industries and government bodies are seeking alternatives and implementing new measures. The European Commission’s SUPD, which came into force on July 3, includes a ban against items such as cotton buds, plates, straws and cutlery within the EU. It also includes measures against other products that consumers may not be aware contain plastic, such as wet wipes. EU member states will have to limit the use of wet wipes while actively campaigning to reduce their consumption. However, following the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequently increased hygiene measures and stay-at-home orders, it's difficult for consumers to avoid using hygiene, personal and even beauty wet wipes, due to the increased time spent at home on self-care. This is why proper labelling, which draws consumers’ attention to plastic in single-use products like wet wipes, is key. New and credible labelling requirements can help educate consumers to make better-informed purchasing decisions and raise awareness for the proper disposal of single-use items, positively impacting how they consume plastic moving forward.
In parallel, there are also new and sustainable alternatives to plastic fibers used by the nonwovens industry that reinforce the SUPD, such as Lenzing’s VEOCEL™ branded fibers. Produced from the renewable material wood from Lenzing’s own eco-responsibly managed production sites, the fibers are certified biodegradable, compostable and can revert back to nature.
Blending of VEOCEL™ fibers with other cellulosic and biodegradable fibers encourages the nonwovens industry for wholescale sustainability. Derived from wood, the fibers bring beneficial properties to the products, like smooth feel, absorption and release of lotion, making them ideal for personal care and beauty products. These products are an indispensable part of many consumers’ lives and are relied upon daily. As essential items, it is important that they should offer maximum comfort and relief to the user. Consumers should never have to compromise between functionality, comfort and sustainability, and it is critical that such intimate products provide both.
Through the expansion of Lenzing E-Branding Service, VEOCEL™ brand partners can now also streamline the licensing process for their use of VEOCEL™ branded fibers. It allows brand partners to manage their licenses while acting as a portal for latest branding guidelines and support for VEOCEL™ brand certified products at the same time. This platform enhances the benefits of transparency whilst also strengthening consumers’ trust in the brand. Reinforcing the measures in the SUPD, VEOCEL™ fibers are a great choice for eco-friendly products in the nonwovens industry.
"We have witnessed a renewed focus from consumers on the environmental credibility of hygiene and personal care product brands," says Vice President Global Nonwovens Business at Lenzing, Jürgen Eizinger. "Consumer awareness around fossil-based nonwoven products has grown, and purchase decisions are now tailored to products to safeguard the environment better. With such trends going forward, for nonwoven brands to remain competitive, it will be essential to review their sustainability strategies and incorporate them into their business practices."
photo credit: Lenzing