Water-soluble film technology

What are water-soluble films?

Water-soluble film is best-known as the material that encapsulates laundry and dishwasher “pods” or “packs” that are increasingly popular with consumers. Each pack contains a pre-measured dose of detergent and make household chores simpler, cleaner and safer because they eliminate the need to pour and measure liquids or powders. They also enable better cleaning and can reduce shipping costs and transporation emissions as they use more concentrated ingredients.

Many of the popular detergent brands available today use a water-soluble film technology produced by MonoSol.

What are MonoSol’s water-soluble films made of?

MonoSol water-soluble films are made of polyvinyl alcohol (known as PVOH).

PVOH is safe and environmentally friendly. It is used in many household, medical and personal-care applications, including laundry and detergent packets, food packaging, textile yarns, paper products, unit-dose pharmaceuticals, “artificial tears” used to treat dry eyes and even contact lens lubricant.

Is PVOH safe?

PVOH is colorless, odorless, readily biodegradable and non-toxic. It is used in household, food, medical and personal-care applications. It dissolves completely upon disposal in water and is consumed by bacterial micro-organisms after use. Its unique safety and environmental profile make it an ideal material for helping make certain every day products safer, simpler and more sustainable.

What are the environmental benefits of PVOH compared to other packaging materials?

MonoSol’s water-soluble films dissolve completely upon contact with water and are readily biodegradable. They do not persist in the environment, contaminate the recycling stream or contribute to micro-plastic pollution. This is why many leading consumer product and retail companies are excited about the potential of PVOH films for helping them reduce their environmental footprint.

What happens to the film once it dissolves?

MonoSol’s film naturally biodegrades into the environment.

What is the difference between PVOH and PVA?

Sometimes PVA is used as an abbreviation for polyvinyl alcohol, but it’s also sometimes used as shorthand for polyvinyl acetate, a different substance that is oftentimes found in glue. To avoid confusion, MonoSol prefers the abbreviation PVOH.

Isn’t PVOH technically a form of plastic?

PVOH is sometimes referred to as “the plastic that’s afraid of water.” What this means is that unlike other forms of plastic, PVOH dissolves completely upon contact with water and is able to be broken down by certain kinds of bacteria making it readily biodegradable. This makes PVOH unique among a broad class of materials that all fall under the broad technical definition of “plastic.”

What is the difference between MonoSol water-soluble films and bio plastics?

MonoSol’s water-soluble films are fundamentally different in both composition and end-of-life performance when compared to bio plastics.

Our water-soluble films dissolve completely upon contact with water and naturally break down into water and carbon dioxide when consumed by bacterial micro-organisms. Therefore they do not persist in the environment, contaminate the recycling stream or contribute to micro-plastic pollution.

Bio plastics can be soluble or insoluble in water and are typically made from plant or animal products. When used, they may be blended with water-resistant polymers to make them useful in packaging applications. Unlike MonoSol PVOH films, however, such bioplastic blends may not completely dissolve and are potentially a concern when they are non-water-soluble because they could contaminate the typical recycling stream.

How else is water-soluble film used?

MonoSol’s water-soluble films are helping companies transform a range of consumer product and business-to-business industries.

MonoSol makes water-soluble films appropriate for a range of applications, ranging from health and beauty products (like shampoo and shaving cream), pool and spa chemicals (so homeowners don’t have to touch, pour or measure) dissolveable hospital laundry bags (that eliminate the need for workers to contact soiled clothes or linens), to sophisticated transfer printing and embroidery techniques.

Where can I find scientific studies or more information about PVOH?

  1. Biodegradation of Polyvinyl Alcohol, R.J. Axelrod and J.H. Phillips (Air Products and Chemicals Inc.), presented at the Plastics Waste Management Workshop, New Orleans, LA, 9-12 December 1991.
  2. Biodegradation of Polyvinyl Alcohol in Wastewater, Q.D. Wheatley & F.C. Baines, Textile Chemist and Colorist, 8 (2), 28-33, 1976.
  3. Biodegradation Rates of Elvanol PVOH, E.I. DuPont de Nemours, Polymer Products Division, Wilmington, DE 19865, 1976
  4. Zahn & H. Wellens, Chem. Zeitung., 98, 228-232, 1974.
  5. Some Characteristics of Pseudomonas O-3 which Utilizes Polyvinyl Alcohol, T. Suzuki et al., Agr. Biol. Chem. 37 (4), 747-756, 1973.
  6. Raw Material Supplier and Detergent Manufacturer Cooperate in Environmental Safety Assessment of a New Detergent Raw Material – A Case Study,F. Meier, N.Stelter, D.M.Lee, N.Zeese,J.Tolls, SOFW Journal, 139, March 2013