The trade association for the US cleaning products supply chain, the American Cleaning Institute (ACI), has expressed its concerns about barriers to sustainable innovation in water-soluble packaging.

A proposed bill in New York City aims to restrict the use of polyvinyl alcohol (also known as PVA or PVOH), a water-soluble polymer used to make eco-friendly laundry and automatic dishwasher detergent packets, also known as pods.

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Detergent packets contain highly concentrated cleaning formulas encased in a water-soluble film made of PVOH. PVOH can be modified to be more or less soluble depending on the desired performance and application.

The ACI stated: “Local legislation is not only unnecessary, as PVOH use in cleaning products is regulated by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but also would limit detergent manufacturers in creating significant sustainable solutions that are delivering positive environmental impact and progress in cleaning sustainability.”

The ACI labels water-soluble films and laundry detergent packets as “a sustainability success story” that helps consumers safely use, dose and store the products.

The polymer can be designed for cold water wash cycles to reduce the environmental footprint associated with heating water, and the packets are compacted, supporting reduced shipping costs and transport emissions.

According to the ACI, the films used in detergent packaging meet internationally approved test methods to ensure they biodegrade after use.

The ACI also expressed disappointment with a campaign launched to discredit polyvinyl alcohol use in detergents, calling it “disingenuous” and “based on shoddy science and intentional distortions.”

The PVOH used in detergent products is accepted by the US EPA Safer Choice programme and other eco-labelling initiatives around the world.

ACI asserts that PVOH film does not contribute to plastic or microplastic pollution, nor does it persist in the environment or contaminate recycling.

In 2023, packaging startup Notpla and homecare and detergent maker MACK launched a clothes detergent sachet which incorporates plant-based and water-soluble film.