Harmful substances, such as microplastics in shampoos, shower gels, lotions, and other personal care products, can be released into the environment via your shower drain. These petroleum-based microplastics do not completely break down and consequently accumulate in the natural environment. Microplastics can be found in surface water and sea water, can end up in fish and crustaceans, and can even enter your body through the food that you eat. Microplastics are a huge concern for society. Manufacturers are keen to make personal care products without these petroleum-based products and are therefore seeking green substitutes.
Cosun supplies sustainable alternatives to microplastics that are made from vegetable waste flows: functional ingredients also known as biopolymers. Wiebe Breeuwer, Technical Sales Specialist at Cosun Biobased Experts explains: ‘Our functional ingredients are plant-based, come from a renewable source, and are therefore circular. These ingredients are biodegradable and therefore do not remain present in the environment. Since we make them from waste flows, we add value by upcycling. This typifies what we do at Cosun Biobased Experts – we look at how we can use every single part of the plant.’
Silky smooth hair, squeaky clean laundry
Betafib®, QUATIN®, and Carboxyline® are three of these functional ingredients. What function do they have in personal care and cleaning products?
- Betafib® is cellulose derived from sugar beet pulp, which remains after the sugar has been extracted from the beets. Betafib® keeps body lotion stable. In personal care products containing exfoliating beads, for instance, it ensures the even distribution of the beads throughout the bottle.
- QUATIN® is a polymer derived from inulin that Cosun extracts from chicory root. Cosun uses inulin residues not fit for human consumption to make functional inulin for products such as shampoos. QUATIN® makes your hair easy to comb and forms a rich, creamy foam. The advantage for shampoo manufacturers is that QUATIN® dissolves more easily in cold water which helps to reduce energy consumption.
- Carboxyline® is made by slightly modifying inulin. This biopolymer captures particles and keeps them suspended in a solution. Lime particles for example. That is why Carboxyline® works well in dishwashers to prevent limescale from forming on tableware and glassware. But it also prevents the discolouration of white laundry due to a stray red sock, as it captures and removes dirt particles.
From petroleum to plant-based
‘The market for personal care and home care products is currently moving away from petroleum derivatives towards functional ingredients that are circular. Manufacturers are working hard to find green solutions. It takes time to convert a technology that has been based on petroleum-based products for many decades. But there is a great deal of interest, and we have noticed a change occurring as well as rapid growth. Cosun can now meet the needs of this non-food market,’ Wiebe tells us.
It’s not just personal care products that are going from petroleum to plant-based. For example, Cosun is also making plastic drinking bottles from sugar beets, and replacing wood fiber with beet pulp in the production of paper.
‘Betafib®, QUATIN®, and Carboxyline® are now ready to be scaled up to meet this growing demand. Although there are other suppliers of functional ingredients, we are the only one to handle the entire production chain starting from the source. This ensures supply security for our customers. Furthermore, the raw materials are sourced locally for Europe: the beets and chicory roots grow within a 300 km radius of our factories. This saves on transport and the corresponding fuel consumption. What if a ship is blocking the Suez Canal? It doesn’t affect us at all.’