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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
How Cleansing Wipes Can Be Both Convenient and Sustainable

Fact: Most personal-care wipes contain plastic and therefore can become a burden on the environment. Lenzing‘s biodegradable VEOCEL™ fibers offer an alternative solution. We talked to Jürgen Eizinger, VP of Global Business Management, Nonwovens at Lenzing, about the future of wet wipes.

They are practical, hygienic and can be found in many bags and households: We are talking about wet wipes, which today stand for rapid cleanliness. What many people don't know is that most personal-care wipes on the market contain fossil-based plastic and therefore can become a burden on the environment. An alternative solution for plastic-based wipes are VEOCEL™ fibers, cellulosic fibers of botanical origin and therefore biodegradable, developed by Lenzing.

We talked to Jürgen Eizinger, VP of Global Business Management, Nonwovens at Lenzing, about the future of wet wipes and the company’s #ItsInOurHands initiative.

The VEOCEL™ brand is Lenzing’s flagship for beauty and personal care products. What are the main advantages of VEOCEL fibers?

Jürgen Eizinger: VEOCEL branded fibers are made from the renewable material, wood. At the end of their life cycle, VEOCEL fibers can become a part of nature again, since they are able to biodegrade within a few weeks in soil and compost, as well as in fresh and marine water. This integration of VEOCEL fibers into the natural life cycle lays the foundation for a new era of biodegradable wet wipes.

Tell us more about #ItsInOurHands. What is the reason behind this initiative?

JE: Although many consumers would prefer wipes made from biodegradable fibers, most wet wipes contain fossil-based plastic materials. The majority of consumers is unaware of this fact because there is little to no information about fiber ingredients. In close collaboration with pioneering brands such as Sweeps®, Dotties® and Kindoh® as well as eco-supporters including Plastic Free World, VEOCEL recently launched #ItsInOurHands, [which] aims to start a widespread dialogue about wet wipes; providing information on current issues, presenting biodegradable solutions, and offering tips and information from sustainability experts. The #ItsInOurHands initiative helps consumers to make a more informed choice.

We want to change the way people think about wet wipes. More and more consumers use wipes every day; simply because wet wipes are practical, hygienic and easily obtainable. #ItsInOurHands creates awareness and goes for the solution — the initiative triggers a new era of wipes by paving the way towards a widespread dialogue along the entire value chain: #ItsInOurHands builds a bridge from scientific insights to lifestyle topics and tips to enjoy the convenience of wipes with a good conscience in everyday life.

How does the new EU regulation (Single-Use Plastics Directive) affect the category of wet wipes?

JE: The Single-Use Plastics Directive is driven by ambitions to reduce marine litter. The focus is on the 10 most common plastic objects found on European beaches, which together constitute 70 percent of all marine litter items. While some of these 10 product categories will be banned (e.g. plastic bags and straws), other products such as wet wipes shall be specifically marked. This marking requirement refers to harmonized disclosure of appropriate waste-management options, as well as presence of plastics in the product. In order to reduce the constantly rising amount of plastic in this world, everyone is called to action: manufacturers, retailers and, of course, consumers themselves. Everyone can support change through conscious, sustainable product choices; which cannot be emphasized enough. With VEOCEL fibers, we at Lenzing offer a biodegradable solution for the production of wet wipes.

The US has also started to look more stringently at the topic of single-use products. The issue of plastics and single-use products is gaining attention and was recently discussed in detail at the annual Hygiene conference, Hygienix, in Houston that we just attended. The State of New York has already passed legislation that requires ingredient labelling of various nonwoven products, and many states are expected to follow. This will increase consumer awareness regarding the wide use of plastics in these products.

Tell us more about the new “Label of Trust” approach that VEOCEL pursues regarding the biodegradability of its fibers.

JE: International certifications conducted by OWS and issued by TÜV Austria verify that standard VEOCEL fibers are biodegradable in all natural and industrial environments — in the soil and compost, as well as in fresh and in marine water. This certified biodegradability of our fibers lays the foundation for environmentally responsible wet wipes. The VEOCEL logo on the packaging highlights beauty and personal care products that are made from 100 percent cellulosic and biodegradable materials. With this industry-first approach, the VEOCEL brand has become a label of trust, since it enables eco-conscious consumers to make an informed product choice at a glance.