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All microplastics are polymers – but not all polymers are microplastics

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A majority of people are striving to act and live more environmentally friendly. Just like in any aspect of today’s consumers’ lives, people demand sustainable products in cosmetics. They’re expected to be safe to use – not only on one’s skin or hair, but also not to pose any environmental risk.

This is where liquid polymers come into play: Unlike solid polymers (e.g. microplastics) which accumulate and may represent a risk for the environment, some liquid polymers, such as polyurethanes (PU), have the ability to biodegrade. As such, they are an alternative for both producers and consumers for more environmentally-friendly cosmetics.
Liquid polyurethanes not only prove to be high-performing cosmetics raw materials. They also show improved environmental compatibility as they are biodegradable thanks to their chemical structure. In this way, a beginning can arise from an end: After usage, e.g. rinsing one’s hair at the end of the day, liquid polymers like polyurethanes, contained in a hair styling product applied in the morning, will simply degrade when released in the environment.

Liquid polyurethane: environmentally- and performance-wise so much to offer

Unfortunately, there are still large gaps in knowledge and information regarding the biodegradability of polymers. The assumption that all polymers are microplastics is misleading and also technically wrong. Quite often, all synthetic polymers are – strongly generalizing – classified as non-degradable microplastics and thus declared harmful to the environment.
 
However, according to the European Chemical Agency's (ECHA) current definition of microplastics, some liquid polymers such as polyurethanes do not belong to this category. In fact, some of our liquid PU film formers meet the OECD 301 standard of biodegradability. Thanks to their chemical and molecular properties, liquid polyurethanes can be biologically degraded in water by microorganisms into carbon dioxid, water and mineral salts. Their carbon content and other individual elements thus re-enter the biological cycle, and this in turn corresponds to the principles of a sustainable circular economy.

Meeting the challenge: high performance and biodegradable products

Liquid polymers such as polyurethanes are used in the cosmetics industry for hair styling products, in color cosmetics or in sun protection products. Like all other cosmetic ingredients, these polymers end up in water: either with waste water into a sewage treatment plant or – in some cases – directly in the natural water circle. The cosmetics industry is therefore facing major challenges due to consumers' changed environmental awareness and the growing demand for biodegradable products that simultaneously provide optimal properties. Our liquid PU film formers offer both: outstanding performance and biodegradability, thus resulting in a more ecologically friendly solution for cosmetic producers and a more sustainable choice for cosmetics consumers.

Key Benefits

  • Biodegradable: Some polyurethanes can reach biodegradation rates of 60% within 28 days (OECD 301).
  • Sustainable: Baycusan® liquid polyurethane film formers are non-persistent, they do not accumulate in the environment.
  • High performance: Baycusan® liquid polyurethane film formers can offer both: performance and improved environmental compatibility.
Product brochure (EN)
Cosmetics & Toiletries: Getting the breakdown
SÖFW Journal: Future of synthetic polymers in cosmetics

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