I recently received a challenge via Instagram about the biodegradability of our charcoal fibre floss. The challenger wrote:
"Careful with claiming compostability with bamboo [charcoal] fibre products. Unless @georganicsuk has had their product lab tested for purity (not just relying on their bamboo fibre supplier claims), there is a good chance this floss contains plastic. There has been deception going on with bamboo [charcoal] floss suppliers where the suppliers that supply manufacturers will claim that their floss is bamboo when it's largely composed of synthetic plastic material.
What you can do is take a long piece of floss, boil it, wipe off the wax, and then light it on fire (carefully). See if it drips and shrivels like plastic. Make sure the piece is long enough or the fire will just eat up the whole piece before you get to determine whether it's plastic."
The Bamboo Charcoal Fibre Test
Curious, I performed the above test in my kitchen, but, since I'm not a fibre scientist, I wasn't really sure what I was looking at. I then watched a few Youtube videos about what bamboo fibre should look and smell like when it burns, and was left unable to draw a conclusion about the floss. Had I properly boiled off all the wax? Was that affecting the way the floss burned? I know from my time in the apparel industry that bamboo, like rayon, is a cellulosic fibre, and will behave differently from cotton or wool, so I wasn't sure what to make of the results I was getting.
What Georganics Had to Say on the Subject
Finding myself at a loss, I reached out to the customer service team at Georganics. This is what they had to say on the subject:
"After checking with the manufacturer, we found that our charcoal floss indeed contains a low amount of polymers which are added during the mechanical process. Unfortunately if they didn’t add this it would collapse and make a low quality floss. This is not the case in our silk floss which is inherently stronger.
However even though there is a small amount of polymer in the floss, it’s still compostable, but just takes slightly more time to break down. We are working hard to improve our products on a daily basis and hope to find alternatives."
I was disappointed to read the above, and felt that the way this floss is marketed is a bit misleading. It's easy to fall into the trap of assuming ill intent, however, in this case I choose to give Georganics the benefit of the doubt, that they weren't fully aware of the fibre's composition, and will work to find a better alternative. In my opinion, they still create great, environmentally friendly products, and do far more good than harm.
Our Plan Going Forward
In light of this new information, however, when we sell down our stock of charcoal floss, we'll be replacing it with silk, which is a pure fibre and 100% biodegradable. I'm disappointed that this takes away a vegan option for my vegan customers, but I'd rather be selling a product that's exactly what it purports to be, and will decompose as promised. In the mean time, we'll continue looking out for a vegan floss option.