Are Laundry Sheets Plastic?

by Skipper Team
We’ve noticed some talk lately that laundry sheets are plastic, and that they aren’t as “eco” as we think. At Skipper we love a good debate, so if you’re one of those curious to know what’s going on, read on.

Are laundry sheets plastic?

In part, yes.
One of the ingredients used in our sheets, PVA (Polyvinyl Alcohol) is a water-soluble synthetic polymer, and is indeed technically a form of plastic. Of course, it’s also biodegradable (more on that later).


Why are we using plastic in our sheets?

It’s not just our sheets, we use it to wrap our dishwasher tablets, and toilet blocks too. It has outstanding film-forming properties, helping to encapsulate and bind ingredients together.
In-fact, PVA has been used in industrial, cosmetic, cleaning, food and pharmaceutical products for decades and is an extremely well-studied and understood ingredient. Chances are, you have other products at home and work containing PVA and have even ingested it orally as it’s a core ingredient in many supplement capsules.

Is PVA bad for the environment?

This is what’s causing a buzz lately. Our well-researched conclusion is a confident, no.
PVA is considered safe for humans1 and the environment, and the structures of PVA used in detergents (including ours) are water-soluble, readily biodegradable and do not leak microplastics into the environment.2,3,4
We’ll dive into what’s fueling concerns to the contrary, and explain the facts in the sections below.

First, some background behind the recent buzz

The PVA debate is being championed by Blueland, a US-based private company that sells laundry tablets (that do not contain PVA) which compete in the US market against laundry sheets and pods.

They funded a study in 20215 which suggested that PVA does not biodegrade in US wastewater treatment plants, and is therefore not readily biodegradable as is commonly understood. This is despite decades of peer-reviewed research that supports the use of PVA.

Blueland also petitioned to the EPA to further regulate PVA and are championing a bill in New York City to restrict laundry and dishwasher pods.

Since then, scientists at the EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) have rejected the claims made from the Blueland study, of which the petitions are based.6,7

A quick lesson on “conflicts of interest”

Blueland has a direct commercial interest in the discrediting of PVA
as they are in direct competition against laundry sheets and pods. In-fact, it is not uncommon for companies to fund studies that form conclusions in-line with their commercial interests.

More recently in Australia, other companies that have a commercial interest in the discrediting of laundry sheets and pods have taken the opportunity to share similar messages. In-fact, one company that recently discredited sheets for “being plastic” also uses the same PVA in a separate product.

At Skipper, we of course have a commercial interest in the use of PVA as we use the ingredient in 3 of our products. We use this ingredient thoughtfully, after carefully reviewing scientific literature to form our objective use.

Navigating the commercial world to do what’s right can be tricky, and our advice is simple. Find companies with values that align with yours, run by people you can trust, and can cite objective research to support their claims.



So is PVA biodegradable? Does it form microplastics in the environment?

Based on decades of research, the conclusion is: Yes it’s biodegradable, and no on microplastics.
We could explain it all here, but this summary fact sheet from the American Cleaning Institute makes a great starting point.

View the Fact Sheet

*It is worth noting that the American Cleaning Institute who created the fact sheet is funded in part, by many larger corporations who also have a commercial interest in PVA use. Accordingly, we have evaluated the comments and citations for objectivity.

What is the grey area then?

Core to the reasons that the EPA rejects the Blueland's petition is that:

A. The study funded by Blueland explores PVA structures not used in laundry pods or sheets (such as those in food packaging), and evaluates environmental impacts of microplastics generally. There is lack of focus on the water-soluble PVA structures actually used in laundry pods or sheets. Some forms of PVA are not readily biodegradable in water.

B. In raising their petitions, Blueland has not adequately acknowledged the decades of existing research supporting water-soluble PVA structures commonly used, nor identified specifically what is lacking to cause a concern about its use and safety which would prompt additional testing.

At Skipper, we support the use of water-soluble PVA and will continue to use it in certain products where it is beneficial.

At present, it is only used in our laundry sheets, dishwasher tablets and toilet blocks.

Whilst messages like “laundry sheets are plastic” and “laundry sheets cause microplastics” are effective in triggering those that want to do the right thing, we remind everyone in our community to do their research and understand the facts before reacting or responding to these.

Recently, the motives behind messages like this are commercial and misguided.

If you’ve read this far, we hope you found this useful and insightful. 

Stay safe Skipper.






1. DeMerlis CC, Schoneker DR. Review of the oral toxicity of polyvinyl alcohol (PVA). Food Chem Toxicol. 2003 Mar;41(3):319-26. 

2. Byrne, D., Boeije, G., Croft, I., Hüttmann, G., Luijkx, G., Meier, F., Parulekar, Y. and Stijntjes, G. (2021) Biodegradability of Polyvinyl Alcohol Based Film Used for Liquid Detergent Capsules: Biologische Abbaubarkeit der für Flüssigwaschmittelkapseln verwendeten Folie auf Polyvinylalkoholbasis.. Tenside Surfactants Detergents, Vol. 58 (Issue 2), pp. 88-96. 

3. Salehpour S, Jonoobi M, Ahmadzadeh M, Siracusa V, Rafieian F, Oksman K. Biodegradation and ecotoxicological impact of cellulose nanocomposites in municipal solid waste composting. Int J Biol Macromol. 2018 May;111:264-270. Epub 2018 Jan 7. PMID: 29320722.

4. Emo Chiellini, Andrea Corti, Salvatore D'Antone, Roberto Solaro,
Biodegradation of poly (vinyl alcohol) based materials, Progress in Polymer Science, Volume 28, Issue 6, 2003, Pages 963-1014, ISSN 0079-6700,

5. Rolsky, C.; Kelkar, V. Degradation of Polyvinyl Alcohol in US Wastewater Treatment Plants and Subsequent Nationwide Emission Estimate. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 202118, 6027. 

6. Freedhoff, M. Letter to Paiji Yoo, S., Cohen, D. April 21, 2023. 

7. Freedhoff, M. Pre-publication notice. April 21, 2023. 





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