Can shampoo biodegrade?

Topics Discussed

Lets distinguish between a shampoo formula base itself having the ability to biodegrade, versus shampoo bottles (depending on the material), being able to biodegrade.

Can shampoo bottles biodegrade?

Conventional shampoo products are generally distributed via retailers inside environmentally damaging materials such as plastic.

Most plastics do not biodegrade, regardless of environmental conditions (some plant and corn-based bio plastics may biodegrade very slowly if exposed to air, water and light).

Although there is no conclusive evidence on how long it takes for plastic to biodegrade, research from scientists at Michigan State University revealed that plastic-bag materials showed little to no signs of degradation after scientists replicated natural conditions over a period of 2-3 years.

Alternatives to plastic shampoo bottles

From biodegradable shampoo bars to innovative plastic-free soaps such as Soapabottle, the are multiple eco friendly options when it comes to zero waste shampoos (glass shampoo containers included).

Natural ingredients used in shampoos bars replace the harsh synthetic chemicals used in conventional shampoos. Bars of shampoo are more concentrated in comparison to standard shampoos, helping them to last for a longer period of time.

Can shampoo naturally break down and how does it impact the environment?

Research carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency looked at what happens when shampoo is washed down the drain. Samples revealed that, not surprisingly, shampoo product ingredients such as parabens, triclosan and sodium lauryl do indeed find their way from bathroom drains to ecosystems.

Chemical traces can be found in most rivers sampled for experimental purposes. It is thought that these traces arise as a result of poorly equipped treatment plants, i.e. shampoo chemicals persist to remain after the water treatment process has finished.

These small chemical traces may accumulate over time, resulting in potential health concerns. Conventional shampoo chemical to look out for include:

– Parabens:
Parabens prevent bacteria from growing as well as other microbes. Research has found traces of parabens in malignant tumors

– Sodium laureth sulfate & Sodium lauryl sulfate:
SLES and SLS are agents that allow foam to arise. Research has linked SLES with organ, lung and skin irritation

– Phthalates:
Phthalates are used to help maintain scent and fragrance longevity. Research has linked phthalates to multiple health issues such as cancer, endocrine and birth defects

– Methylisothiazolinone:
MIT is a preservative used in many shampoos. Research has linked MIT to various skin related issues

While the precise environmental impacts of shampoo chemicals remains unclear, scientific evidence suggests that some shampoo ingredients should be avoided until the long-term affects of these chemicals become clearer.

You may also like:

All you need to know: eco-friendly, biodegradable shampoo bars

An eco shampoo infographic

What shampoo is best for the environment?

How does the chemical of shampoo affect the environment?