Biodegradability Testing and Bioglitter®’s Independent Biodegradability Testing Results
Biodegradability Testing and Specific Bioglitter Testing.
The specialised modified regenerated cellulose core film unique in Bioglitter® products represents equal to or more than 90% of its content and is certified both industrial compostable (EN13432, EN14995, ASTM D6400, ISO 17088) and home compostable (OK Compost Home), Waste Water biodegradation approved to ISO15986 and also marine biodegradation approved to ASTM D6691-09. During the manufacture of Bioglitter® surface coatings are applied to this core film. Irrespective of how little coating is applied and the materials used, testing Bioglitter® in its finished form to an appropriate test method or standard is required to make any justified claim on its true ability to biodegrade in the environment.
The table below provides a illustration of the various levels of biodegradability testing relevant to different environments, it’s quite a complex picture. It was essential to us to test Bioglitter® in its finished form (ie with coatings) to a challenging yet relevant natural environment to a well established standard and test method. Proving Bioglitter® biodegradability credentials in a challenging environment indicates more favourable results in less challenging conditions.
Industrial composting EN13432 is the testing level most regularly referred to and most well known. However it’s more relevant to packaging waste that can be separated and put in industrial compost recycling, not very practical for glitter. Industrial composting is conducted in man made conditions c.60oC and high humidity. Whereas OK Compost Home, OK Soil, Waste Water, OK Water and marine testing are more representative of the biodegradability in the natural environment. There is a significantly higher probability for glitter to be found in general waste, waste water, fresh water and general outdoor environment after use. The route to industrial composting via the compost recycling bin is highly unlikely in reality.
Standards can change, ASTM D7081-05 marine standard was withdrawn in 2014 and more recently attention has been drawn to the applicability of industrial compostability standards (EN13432, ASTM 6400) as a measure of compostability in the natural environment as the limitations of this test method become better understood.
Note: The term ‘composting’ is associated with manmade processes and ‘biodegradablty’ is associated with the natural environments.
Bioglitter®: Fresh Water Biodegradation Testing
Considering the above and following close consultation with our accredited testing partner OWS, Belgium, it was decided freshwater biodegradability testing to ISO 14851 was most appropriate. The decision on this test method was based on the nature of our material (insoluble solid as opposed to a chemical) and the most probable end of life scenarios for Bioglitter®. This biodegradation test determines the degree of aerobic biodegradability of the test samples by exposure to micro-organisms in a waterbased medium (under laboratory conditions) representative of the natural environment, such as rivers, streams or lakes. During the aerobic biodegradation of biodegradable materials, oxygen is consumed and carbon is converted to carbon dioxide (CO2). The amount of biodegradation can be calculated from how much carbon converted to CO2.
Summary of Test Results
The test results as illustrated in the chart below demonstrate the vast majority of the biodegradable content of both Bioglitter® Sparkle and Bioglitter® Pure biodegrades in a fresh water environment in only 4 weeks. It also proves that the coating applied in the manufacture of Bioglitter® does not compromise the performance characteristics of the Modified Regenerated Cellulose core to biodegrade as detailed above.
- Bioglitter® Sparkle
- After only 35 days Bioglitter® Sparkle Silver 008 (with clear coating) has biodegraded to a level of 87% (relative to the microcrystalline cellulose control), which represents the vast majority of the c.90% biodegradable content in Bioglitter Sparkle.
- A level of 90% biodegradation within 56 days relative to the microcrystalline cellulose control meets the biodegradation criteria for OK biodegradable WATER certification, and our aim of reducing plastic content (and therefore increasing biodegradable content) in our Bioglitter® Sparkle will ultimately allow us to achieve this target.
- Bioglitter® Pure
- Bioglitter® Pure Red 008 passes the 90% (relative to cellulose control) criteria for the biodegradation requirement of OK biodegradable WATER after only 28 days.
What is Cellulose and are all forms of ‘Cellulose’ film the same?
Cellulose is the substance that makes up most of a plant’s cell walls. Since it is made by all plants, it is probably the most abundant organic compound on Earth. Cellulose is a biodegradable polysaccharide. A polysaccharide is a type of carbohydrate.
No, all forms of Cellulose film are NOT the same. There are many forms of cellulose from the most basic form of cellulose; paper, cotton and wood pulp, to more pure versions where the cellulose has been extracted or redefined: microcrystalline cellulose, cellulose acetate, traditional regenerated cellulose (Cellophane™) and MRC (modified regenerated cellulose, unique to Bioglitter®).
Micro-crystalline Cellulose – is a white powder product, a refined form of cellulose usually made from wood pulp. Micro-crystalline cellulose is commonly used in cosmetics as a plastic-free exfoliant. In other industries, it’s used a filler or bulking agent. Not suitable for making a flexible transparent film from which glitter can be manufactured.
Celluloid – 1860’s
Celluloid is generally considered the first thermoplastic, becoming commercially available in the 1860’s. It was the first picture or photographic film, however, it was found to be highly flammable.
Cellulose Acetate or ‘Acetate’ – 1920’s
Cellulose Acetate or Cellulose Triacetate was developed as a safer alternative to Celluloid and became commercially available in the 1920’s. It made by reacting cellulose with acetic anhydride. Cellulose Acetate is industrial and home compostable, BUT, it does not biodegrade in the natural environment and is also a synthetic thermoplastic.
Cellulose Acetate can be commonly seen in the environment in the form of discarded cigarette ends. Cellulose Acetate is the most common material used to make cigarette filters. It can take up to 12 years to degrade in natural environmental conditions and environmental pollution created from cellulose acetate cigarette filters is very well documented. It’s our view that similar to PLA, Cellulose Acetate makes complete sense from an eco-friendly material for packaging, used in this application it is physically large enough to place waste packaging in a composting disposal stream. However, with small products like glitter, either during clean up through the supply chain or when the product is finally discarded it is physically not practical to place such small particles in a composting disposal stream and therefore why we do not consider it a suitable raw material on which to base eco-friendly alternative to plastic glitters. It’s also interesting to note that Cellulose Acetate is considered a synthetic thermoplastic and therefore not suitable to pass the UK Mirco Beads (microplastics) legislation that came into force January 2018 and currently applies to the UK rinse-off cosmetics/toiletries market. So Cellulose Acetate being both a synthetic thermoplastic and not biodegradable in the natural environment are the main reasons why we did not feel it suitable to be used in Bioglitter® products.
Traditional Regenerated Cellulose or Cellophane™ – 1920′-30s –
Regenerated Cellulose was Introduced in the 1930s as a transparent film used in food wraps and candy wraps. In the 1960s-1970s with the advent of lower cost and easier to handle oil derived plastic films such a polyester, polythene etc, it became less popular. In the US and some other countries “Cellophane” has become genericized, and is often used informally to refer to a wide variety of plastic film products, even those not made of cellulose, such as plastic wrap. It was assumed that traditionally regenerated cellulose, as it was based on cellulose, would have good biodegradability characteristics, however, when put to the test it was found that this form of cellulose film had very poor biodegradability performance. It does not pass recognised biodegradability standards, not even industrial composting standards EN13432 and ASTM D6400, the least challenging of conditions for biodegradability. Manufacturing a glitter based on traditional regenerated cellulose (Cellophane™), due to its poor biodegradability performance, does not meet the basic ecological requirement of Bioglitter® products, hence why we discounted this technology it in our development process.
MRC – Modified Regenerated Cellulose, the base film used Bioglitter® – 2000’s – A high tech and modern version of traditional regenerated cellulose unique to Bioglitter®. Natural cellulose is extracted from wood pulp, the prefered type being eucalyptus and then the cellulose is regenerated by casting into a clear film. Specifically developed and designed to biodegrade in both industrial man-made composting environments and also in natural environments. It is manufactured from sustainable resources, it is not a thermoplastic and it biodegrades extremely well; certified both industrial compostable (EN13432, EN14995, ASTM D6400, ISO 17088) and home compostable (OK Compost Home), Waste Water biodegradation approved to ISO15986 and also marine biodegradation approved to ASTM D6691-09.
Summary – Even though they all have cellulose in the name; cellulose acetate, traditional regenerated cellulose and the ‘MRC’ in Bioglitter® are completely different in biodegradability performance and in the case of Cellulose Acetate its classification as a synthetic thermoplastic.
With both its non-plastic (not thermoplastic) and biodegradable properties, the MRC (modified regenerated cellulose) used in Bioglitter® provides us with the best foundation on which to continue to build our eco-glitter technology and drive to achieve the ultimate goals with all Bioglitter® products;
1 – Plastic free, so it’s no longer a microplastic.
2 – Biodegradable in the natural environment, so it leaves minimal or no trace.
What is PLA (poly lactic acid) and why we DON’T use bio-plastics like PLA in Bioglitter®?
PLA is a thermoplastic polyester bio-polymer. It is produced by the chemical conversion of corn into dextrose, the dextrose is then fermented to lactic acid, which is then polymerised into poly lactic acid, PLA for short.
Bio-plastics such as PLA WILL NOT biodegrade in the natural environment, they need the man made conditions (elevated temperatures and extremely high humidity) found in industrial composting processes.
It’s our view that there is a significantly higher probability for glitter to be found in general waste, waste water, fresh water and in the outdoor environment after use. Therefore, the route to industrial composting via the recycling compost bin, a possible solution for packaging waste, is highly unlikely with glitter due to its physical size and how its used.
For these reasons we quickly discounted bio-plastics like PLA very early in the development of Bioglitter® as they are NOT suitable for achieving the naturally biodegradability characteristics we are looking for in an truly biodegradable glitter.
In addition, the new UK microbeads legislation introduced in January 2018 defines any plastic particle less than 5mm as a microplastic and therefore would include any thermoplastic glitter, like a PLA based glitter. PLA is a plastic and therefore also NOT suitable for achieving the plastic free characteristics we are looking for in our Bioglitter® products.
Lots of independently documented information can be found on the internet that explain about the disappointing realities of PLA’s inability to biodegrade in the natural environment, this link to a UN report offers good insight.
As part of the independent testing of Bioglitter® by OWS to ISO 14851 – Fresh Water Biodegradability. A commercially available PLA silver glitter (with no coating) was also tested along side Bioglitter® Sparkle Silver (with a clear coating). As the graph below clearly illustrates, PLA glitter (purple line on the x axis) does not biodegrade in the natural environment.
Glitter Structure – How’s it made up?
Glitters are manufactured by coating clear films with reflective, coloured and clear coatings, then precision cutting the coated film into small uniform particles, usually hexagonal shaped.
Below is an expoded view of Bioglitter.
c.90% Film base this forms the ‘Core’ of glitter
c.10% Combined top and bottom coatings. These provide the glitter with colour and functional properties to imporve performance in application.
c.01% Aluminium. This provides glitter with its brilliant shine. Aluminium is naturally occuring and is the most abundant metallic element in the earth’s crust. Its also the most reflective of all metals and therefore prefect for providing that ultimate sparkle.
The coatings give the glitter its colour and also provide functional properties to improve performance in application. Coating the certified biodegradable film used in Bioglitter could affect the biodegradability of film/core in the finished Bioglitter product. This is why it was so important for us to independently prove that the coating we apply in the manufature of Bioglitter did not compromise the ability of the core to biodegrade.
In the case of silver glitter, where no colour is needed, there is an option not to apply coatings. However, we still coat Bioglitter with a clear coating to provide the functional properties as explained above.
If Bioglitter® has a coating on the surface of the biodegradable core film will this stop it from biodegrading?
We have taken several measures to ensure Bioglitter® will biodegrade in the natural environment:
1. Minimising coating thickness. We are continually striving to minimise the amount of coating we apply.
2. The coating we apply are designed not to be completely sealed to microbial activity allowing microbes to penetrate the coatings to gain access to the cellulose core.
3. Glitter is cut from film. This gives Bioglitter® a big advantage as the cut edges expose the cellulose and significantly increase the accessibility to microbes, thus enhancing degradation.
Independent testing of Bioglitter® by OWS to ISO 14851 – Fresh Water Biodegradability illustrated in the chart below show the vast majority of the biodegradable content of both Bioglitter® Sparkle and Bioglitter® Pure biodegrades in a fresh water environment, eg river, lake or pond water, at ambient temperatures in only 4 weeks.
The orange line illustrates the performance of the pure uncoated special modified regenerated cellulose base film vs the final Bioglitter® products. Both Bioglitter® Sparkle and Pure demonstrate excellent biodegradability performance vs the uncoated base film. Bioglitter sparkle does not quite achieve the same level, which is expected as it only contains c.90% biodegradable content. Whereas Bioglitter® Pure shows very similar performance and level of biodegradability to the uncoated base film.
It proves that the measures taken, as outlined above, in the development and manufacture of Bioglitter® retain the performance characteristics of the Modified Regenerated Cellulose core to biodegrade in the natural environment.
Nevertheless, we are working hard to making all the coatings used in all Bioglitter® products inherently naturally biodegradable and 100% plastic free. As the plastic content is further reduced on the Bioglitter® Sparkle development journey the biodegradable content will only increase.
To find our more about Bioglitter®, biodegradabilty standards and what we are doing about independent testing, please see the earlier FAQ: Biodegradability Testing and Bioglitter®’s Independent Biodegradability Testing Results
How long does it take to biodegrade on land or in water?
Bioglitter® requires the presence of microorganisms to degrade. Warm and wet conditions are ideal and higher concentrations of microbes will increase the rate of biodegradation. A good analogy is that a leaf in an arid environment will take longer to degrade than in a swamp.
When tested to ISO14851 – Fresh water Biodegradability equivalent of stream, river and lake environments the vast majority of the biodegradable content in Bioglitter® Sparkle and Bioglitter® Pure biodegrades at ambient temperatures in only 4 weeks.
Does Bioglitter® dissolve in water? Would that not be a good thing?
No Bioglitter® does not dissolve in water. Microorganisms are needed to digest Bioglitter® and transform it into harmless substances; carbon dioxide, water and biomass.
If Bioglitter® did dissolve it would NOT be a good thing as it would still be there in the water, just you would not see it. Similar to salt dissolved in sea water, it is still there just you cannot see it, very easily demonstrated when sea water dries on skin, the salt is left behind and reappears.
What is the shelf life of Bioglitter®?
Bioglitter® is very stable and will not biodegrade on the shelf. Biodegradation will only be initiated in compost, soil, waste-water, fresh water or marine environments where microorganisms are present.
Bioglitter® as supplied in dry form, has an indefinite shelf life providing it is stored in a dry dark, cool environment, out of direct sunlight, away from direct heat sources and not exposed to microorganisms. However, for good manufacturing practice we would recommend you use the product within 3 years to ensure optimal condition.
Is Bioglitter® toxic or harmful to humans or the environment?
Bioglitter® has been tested for 18 heavy metals and all are below the limit of detection tests and do not pose any hazard both for humans or the environment.
All Bioglitter® products are non-toxic and pass EN71 European Toy Regulations along with Global Cosmetic Regulations as detailed in the specific product information.
Bioglitter® Sparkle: Ecotoxicity and heavy metals test results for Bioglitter® Sparkle indicate we will meet the Environmental safety and Chemical characteristics requirements for OK biodegradable WATER certification
Bioglitter® Pure: We fully expect Cosmetic Bioglitter® Pure to meet the ecotoxicity and heavy metals criteria for OK biodegradable WATER certification and will be submitting the product for certification before launch later in the year.
What is a microplastic? How big is the glitter microplastic pollution problem?
What is a microplastic?
A microplastic is a small piece of plastic, less than 5mm. These can originate from larger plastic objects like bottles and other packaging breaking down in the environment, microplastics from this source are known as secondary microplastic. However, some cases plastic can enter the environment already small enough to be a microplastic, these are known as primary microplastics. Examples of primary microplastics include; wash fibres from man-made fabrics, weathering of exterior coatings and the most significant contributor and probably least spoken about; vehicle tyre dust. Vehicle tyre dust is a surprise to most, however, tyres wear down as they are used creating dust.
The issue with microplastics is that they can attract toxic chemicals in the environment, acting as a sponge that can concentrate these chemicals and can enter the food chain.
As traditional plastic based glitter is small, typically less than 5mm in size, it’s considered a primary microplastic. This, combined with how glitter is used in some applications can contribute to microplastic pollution. Glitters used in single use applications were it can easily find its way into the environment such as; cosmetics, flower decoration, card printing, kids craft, paint and gift wrap, are of particular concern.
How big is the glitter microplastic pollution problem?
It’s important to be mindful that the extent of glitter pollution is small in comparison to the other forms of primary microplastic marine pollution, ie plastic that enter the oceans as microplastics such as; vehicle tyre dust, wash fibres from man-made fabrics and the weathering of exterior coatings to name a few. It’s even smaller when secondary microplastics, those generated through the breakdown of larger pieces of plastic pollution, are taken into consideration.
From a recent National Geographic article “So while there is evidence of accumulation of microplastics in general and evidence of harm from lab studies, there is a lack of clear evidence specifically on glitter,” says Richard Thompson, a marine biologist at the University of Plymouth in western Britain and a leading expert on microplastics. “We have microplastic particles in around one third of the 500 fish we examined in the English Channel, but we did not find any glitter.”
Needless to say glitter is still a microplastic and no matter how big or small the potential issue, it still needs addressing. Hence our passion to offer credible eco-friendly glitter alternatives and our driving to remove all plastic in our Bioglitter® products.
Bioglitter® and our biodegradable content goals.
It’s our goal to maximise the content of biodegradable material in Bioglitter®, however, our target is not necessary to get to 100%.
The real environmental challenge with traditional glitter is the plastic and our target to remove ALL plastic in ALL Bioglitter® products addresses this challenge.
The biodegradability goals of Bioglitter® are driven by our desire to leave minimal or no trace. We all know how hard it is to clean up glitter when it gets in the environment, hence why decided early in the development of Bioglitter® that it was necessary to ensure that it would biodegrade in natural environments, so any glitter left behind after clean-up will biodegrade and leave minimal or no trace.
However, we do wish Bioglitter® still to look like glitter: colourful, bright, shiny and most of all FUN. To do this we use reflective materials like metals and also coloured materials such as pigments. It’s important to understand that materials that do not biodegrade are not necessarily harmful to the environment. For example Aluminium, the most abundant metallic element in the earth’s crust does not biodegrade and is neither toxic nor eco toxic. Aluminium is also the brightest metal available and is what gives Bioglitter® its brilliant shine. We also use pigments in Bioglitter® to give the vibrant colour, the pigments we use are specially selected and are not harmful. These non-plastic, non-harmful and non-biodegradable components, depending on the Bioglitter® product, can represent up to a few % of Bioglitter®’s content and hence why some Bioglitter® products have less than 100% biodegradability and why we continue to focus on the KEY issue of removing plastic from the environment.
We carefully select all our raw materials to ensure they are not toxic, eco-toxic or harmful. Both our desire to produce an eco-friendly glitter and our legal obligations to comply with appropriate product safety legislation such as REACH, Cosmetic Regulations and Toy Regulations ensure this.
With Bioglitter® we are simply designing the environmental concerns OUT of the product. So the consumer can stop worrying about it’s impact on the environment and focus on having FUN.
Bioglitter® – Driving Towards a Guilt Free Glitter World!
Does Bioglitter® contain aluminium, and if so, how can it still be called biodegradable?
Some but not all Bioglitter® products contain aluminium. It is used in an extremely thin coating to give glitter its shine. Aluminium is the most abundant metallic element in the earth’s crust and does not biodegrade, however materials that do not biodegrade are not necessarily harmful to the environment. The aluminium in Bioglitter® represents less than 0.1% by weight and is neither toxic nor ecotoxic. Biodegradability standards typically call for at least 90% of material to biodegrade within the testing period. Our journey with Bioglitter® will take the biodegradable content to its maximum and beyond the minimum 90% requirements of the standards.
Does Bioglitter® look like normal polyester glitter?
Bioglitter® offers the same precision cut and highly reflective properties as polyester (PET) glitter.
The Burn Test: How can Bioglitter® be tested to prove it is different to other glitters?
A very easy and effective test is to simply heat it up or burn it. It’s a similar test used in the textile industry to distinguish between man made and natural materials.
Bioglitter® smoulders, burns and smells like paper or wood. Other glitters made of plastic, thermoplastic or bio-plastics like PLA all melt, burn and smell as you would expect of a plastic.
If you try this test PLEASE BEWARE the plastic glitters produce a very strong acrid smoke, especially iridescent glitter.
Does Cosmetic Bioglitter® satisfy the requirements of EC Cosmetics Regulation 1223/2009 and FDA Title 21 CFR Cosmetic Regulations?
Yes, as well as the Japanese, Chinese, Australian and Korean cosmetic regulations.
Does Cosmetic Bioglitter® satisfy European Toy Safety Standards?
Yes, both EN71-2: 2011 for flammability and EN71-3: 2013 A1: 20014 for migration of certain elements.
What is antimony and is it in Bioglitter®?
Antimony is a heavy metal used as a catalyst in the production of polyester and some remains after production in the polyester as an impurity. Antimony long term exposure can cause irritation and ultimately can cause more serious health effects.
The total antimony level in Bioglitter® is <0.5ppm (parts per million). This is the limit of the analysis by Inductively Coupled Argon Plasma Spectrometry (ICP-MS) and therefore can be said to be antimony free. Antimony is NOT used in the production process, unlike the production of polyester used in traditional cosmetic and non-cosmetic plastic glitter. Levels of antimony in cosmetic plastic glitter are controlled to maximum 150ppm, correspondingly the antimony levels in non cosmetic plastic glitter are not controlled and therefore significantly higher.
Is Bioglitter® REACH registered?
Bioglitter® is defined as a finished article and does not require registration under REACH. However, we can confirm that Bioglitter® does not contain any SVHC’s (Substances of Very High Concern) as defined under REACH.
Is Bioglitter® edible?
Although non-toxic and non-harmful Bioglitter® is NOT a foodstuff and therefore not intended for consumption.
Bioglitter® and common allergies?
Bioglitter® is free of the 14 common food allergens. None of our raw materials knowingly contain any common allergens and our manufacturing equipment is not used to produce any other products that contain allergens.
Does Bioglitter® contain Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)?
No ‘genetically modified materials’ are used in the production process, and based on information from our suppliers none of the materials used to formulate Bioglitter® are obtained from GMO’s.
Does Bioglitter® contain any CMR (Carcinogenic, Mutagenic or Toxic) ingredients?