What does ‘zero microplastics’ mean?

What are microplastics and where do they come from?

Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic, less than 5 mm in size. Some microplastics are made intentionally, such as those found in certain cosmetics and exfoliating body washes with so-called ‘micro-beads’. Others are created over time through everyday wear and tear ofplastic products, for example like car tires or shoe soles that wear down through abrasion. Microplastics are also generated when plastics are exposed to environmental forces like wind, water, heat and light, which break the materials into smaller and smaller pieces. 

The reality is that even if we can’t see them, all plastics generate microplastics. Due to our enormous consumption of this material, miniscule pieces of plastic have ended up everywhere on earth, inside wildlife, and inside our own bodies – with disruptive and harmful consequences to human and planetary health. The issue is that microplastics generated from “standard” (i.e. non-biodegradable) plastics are so chemically stable that they will last as microplastics for tens or even hundreds of years, essentially making them “forever microplastics.”

Soleic creates zero persistent microplastics thanks to being fully biodegradable

One of the key benefits of Soleic technology is that it is proven to be fully biodegradable, which means it breaks down in composting conditions and leaves behind no microplastics. When our materials are subject to normal wear and tear of use, the microplastics generated will not remain in the environment, nor make their way through the food chain and end up in our bodies.

Our scientists have run several experiments to test this, with the results published in a peer-reviewed paper in March 2024. To run the experiment, we ground up one of our TPUs into microplastics, put it in compost, and measured its biodegradation rate using ASTM Standard D5338, comparing it to a standard non-biodegradable EVA material (a common plastic found in products like flip flops). After just 200 days, 76% of our TPU microplastics had degraded, compared to 0% of the EVA, as you can see in the chart below, with the control being cellulose). 

We also took images of the microplastics in compost, as you can see in the second chart, which showed the TPU microplastics disappearing almost entirely by Day 200, whereas the EVA microplastics are still visually prominent at that point. This gives us a rare peek into the microscopic reality that is all around us: microplastics that linger in the air we breathe, in our oceans, soil, plants, and wildlife.

The benefit of Soleic materials is clear – full biodegradability, no persistent microplastics, and, in turn, a cleaner, healthier world.

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