Biodegradable Plastic and Hippos - can they co-exist?

Biodegradable Plastic and Hippos - can they co-exist?

Mar 09, 2021

Barbara Marengo

Is my beautiful eco-friendly Hippo Soap wrapped in plastic?

how to store glycerin soap bars

We know you share our concern for our natural environment and the role we play in protecting it. Our values of being eco-friendly, sustainable and environmentally conscious  are evident in our ingredients, manufacturing processes and packaging. Our soaps are natural and we promise you packaging that is biodegradable. When it came to sealing our natural glycerin soap bars for shipping we had to find something that is 100% biodegradable but still did a great job of keeping our hippos as fresh as possible for as long as possible. So we use a product called Biolefin, which is a really cool biodegradable (read HOME compostable) product which keeps your hippos dry and safe until you’re ready for them.  Once unwrapped, you should put the Biolefin wrapping in with your compost/green bin, where it will bio-degrade into water and food for bacteria and other micro-organisms. Biolefin is totally safe, non-toxic and 100% biodegradable.

 But what about all the plastic pollution? Can you not wrap your soap in something else?

 Well yes, and… not really. Here’s our take on the plastic problem and how we hope to be a part of the solution.

Plastics account for a large visible aspect of pollution on our planet, however pollution of our natural environment extends well beyond what we can see. Pollutants ranging from nuclear, chemical, as well as materials such as plastics are all issues that need to be addressed, and tackling material pollution and creating a circular economy is a great first step to tackling the challenge of pollution, and one we can all play a role in. 

Below is an infographic on plastic decomposition shared from Futurism which beautifully illustrates the impact of plastic in our natural environment.

Recently, biodegradable and compostable plastics have become commercially available and can already been seen in use in various consumer products and packaging. However, there is a caveat to the “eco” move to biodegradable and especially compostable products. Firstly, they are incredibly difficult to separate from recyclable plastic and secondly, they often must be industrially composted or only biodegrade under specific conditions which means they sometimes don’t at all. 

‘There was this moment I realized ... I can account for all humanity’s plastic.’ all-the-plastic-ever-made-study-comic

So, are biodegradable products irrelevant? No. Biodegradable materials require certain conditions to degrade, however what is most important is what they turn into. Certain plastics such as standard PET, PLA and PE require certain conditions for degradation that don’t occur in the natural environment whether it be a landfill or the ocean. Also, these plastics can break down into microplastics. Microplastics can become hazardous as they enter our food-chain and effect the natural environment around us. 

If you find these facts and this information interesting, visit the Guardians post written by Susie Cagle about the findings of industrial economist Roland Geyer.

Where does Biolefin come into play, and what is it?

Biolefin is an Oxo-biodegradable plastic: a degradable plastic in which the degradation results from the action of naturally occurring microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and algae.” Oxo-biodegradable products don’t break down into smaller pieces (microplastics) but rather chemically different hydrophilic (water soluble) compounds that can be biodegraded by microorganisms.

Biolefin biodegrading in environment

Biolefin uses ‘Totally Degradable Plastic Additives’ (TDPA) to assist breakdown of the product in the natural environment. Firstly, it breaks down abiotically using environmental factors such as oxidation and sunlight. After which, the oxo-biodegradable plastic has been broken down into small enough particles that it can be assimilated by microorganisms (biotically) in the natural environment.This process can occur within a couple months in the right conditions, although in non-ideal conditions it takes only 1-3 years to completely biodegrade. This is amazing considering normal plastic products can take almost half a millennium to degrade.


Is Biolefin petrochemically derived?

lifecycle of Biolefin

Yes, and although we would rather use naturally derived plastics this isn’t such a bad thing. The TDPA requires use with a polyolefin, which in turn requires a certain type of polymer found in standard petrochemically derived plastics. The additive TDPA is natural,  however the plastic base is quite versatile and can be Polylactic Acid (PLA), Polyethylene (PE), and Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET). This makes Biolefin a versatile product that can use common plastics for plastic bags, sealing products and more. Biolefin does break down into natural compounds and biomass that can become a healthy part of the ecosystem, as such it is a greater alternative to recyclable plastics which often end up in the environment.

Our Hippos walk gently on the earth.......

As much as I would love to bring our Hippo Soaps to you in their completely naked state, I am comforted by the fact that although they are wrapped, the life of their bioplastic wrap is roughly the same as the shelf life of the hippo itself. So, other than leaving clean water behind, and some food for the organisms in your soil, the hippo and its wrapping walk gently on our earth leaving nothing but love behind.

Hippo Soap in Biolefin