Most plastics we come in contact with on a daily basis are single-use. These can over 500 years to breakdown and are still harmful to the environment.
Mismanaged consumer and industrial waste disposal have contributed to the plight of our oceans. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the embodiment of our environmentally harmful ways.
This problem has become so dire that two Chileans have developed what they call a promising solution: plastic bags that dissolve in water in a matter of minutes.
“We want to emulate one-time-use plastic products, transforming them into environment-friendly products that any person can eliminate at the end of their useful lifespan,” said Roberto Astete, cofounder and co-CEO of the Chilean company Solubag.
Astete and his co-founder Cristián Olivares are both industrial engineers. The pair were trying to develop a biodegradable detergent when they realized they could use the raw material from their product to reduce plastic waste.
Solubags are made from PVA, a water-soluble substance that doesn’t contaminate the environment.
PVA is used as a coating in pharmaceutical and food industries, and is made from several sources. “Since we wanted to create a product that doesn’t pollute the environment, we developed the bags using calcium carbonate and natural gas,” Astete said.
While traditional plastic bags contain petroleum derivatives, which take up to 500 years to break down, Solubags take only five minutes when submerged in water. The water also remains potable after the bag has dissolved.
“With Solubags you decide when you destroy the bag,” says Olivares.
The company’s engineers made sure the products can withstand rain, setting the temperature of dissolution at 40 to 50 degrees Celsius.
There are two kinds of Solubags: those that dissolve in cold water and resemble the traditional plastic supermarket bag, and others that dissolve in hot water and resemble reusable shopping bags, many of which are also made of plastics, says Olivares.
Both are intended for use by the general public.
Solubags are not yet for sale (the company is testing the bags in the Chinese, Indian, and Chilean markets) but the founders expect them to be sold in major retailers later this year in Chile, Europe, and the United States.
Solubag is currently focusing on perfecting the raw material to produce not only bioplastic bags but other objects, such as bottles and straws.
Solubags are not the first water-soluble bags but they will be the first intended for the general public. Their low cost also differentiates them in the market, Astete says.