Biodegradability has become a buzzword among brands hoping to satisfy the increasingly eco-conscious consumer. These days, it’s the norm to find cosmetics with biodegradable applicators and solid bodywashes in boxes of the sort. However, even with the number of cosmetic products making a ‘biodegradable’ claim in 2020 more than double that of 2016, consumers are now pressing brands to further increase transparency of the ingredients contained within their products, seeking more than superficial sustainability claims.
Owing to this emerging trend, we recently tested the biodegradability of AvenaPLex, Oat COM, Oat Lipid and Oat SILK. The results show that our ingredients easily biodegrade in a freshwater environment, proving that brands needn’t compromise on efficacy to make trend-driven claims.
Non-Biodegradable Ingredients Can Endanger Ecosystems
Biodegradability refers to the process whereby bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms break down the organic matter of a product. Deemed a positive step towards a more sustainable future, this decomposition process reduces the grave impact of waste disposal on marine environments. It is particularly important in beauty and personal care due to the rinse-off nature of so many products. Having been washed down the drain, a product’s ingredients usually enter the sewerage system, heading straight for water treatment plants which struggle to filter them out. Consequently, the contents often end up in our oceans, rivers and other precious waterways and can pose great risk to marine life if not able to biodegrade. The UK’s 2018 ban on microplastic beads in cosmetics brought this issue to the fore. In this case, animals were found to have ingested the beads which passed through water treatment plants undetected. This resulted in the introduction of potentially toxic substances into the food chain.
Our 28-Day Biodegradability Study
We recently put AvenaPLex, Oat COM, Oat Lipid and Oat SILK through rigorous biodegradability testing. Our 28-day study sought to confirm not only what we’ve long known – that our oat-derived ingredients are biodegradable, being 100% natural – but the length of time and conditions necessary for decomposition to take place.
Tested Under Conditions Akin to the Natural Environment
All too often products bear a ‘biodegradable’ claim despite having been tested under conditions characteristic of only a science lab. Think temperatures greater than 50°C. Mindful of the need to conduct our study under conditions akin to the natural environment, we kept temperatures between 20-23°C. We also chose activated sludge from a sewage treatment plant as the inoculum so to further replicate a real-life scenario.
Readily Biodegradable, Natural Cosmetic Ingredients
The results of the study confirm that all four ingredients are readily biodegradable under environmental conditions. In fact, at greater than 90% maximum average degradation relative to the Theoretical/Chemical Oxygen Demand on day 28, AvenaPLex, Oat SILK, Oat Lipid and Oat COM all far exceed the 60% above which it is standard to consider a substance easily biodegradable. The impressive rate at which our ingredients break down is an important factor in consideration of their biodegradability credentials. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, a product taking up to 6 months to decompose can be considered biodegradable. This results in great disparity between the eco-friendliness of those which lay dormant in the environment for up to half a year and those which are undetectable in a matter of weeks. The latter is naturally the more favourable scenario of the two, reducing water pollution and risk to marine life.
To see the results of our biodegradability study in full, download the latest datapacks over on our ingredient pages. For guidance on formulating with our proven biodegradable cosmetic ingredients, please contact us and we’ll be in touch.