It's been a minute since I wrote on here. In today's post we'll learn about something everybody's heard of: bio-acetate.
I'd barely ever heard of the term so I went and did some digging myself and today I share with you all my findings 🕵🏻♀️
And just before we start - a quick announcement: congratulations to Harleen for winning the Stylist Live tickets. We are able to offer 15% off regular tickets with the code STYLISTSHOP. The link for tickets is here.
Pretty Colours from Mazzuchelli 1849
So… just what is bio-acetate? How is it “eco-friendly”?
Bio-acetate is a certified biodegradable plastic that is produced without the use of crude oil / fossil fuels. That's because it's made with cellulose (which comes from a plant source) mixed with a plasticiser (a binding agent that allows us to actually use it as a material).
Note: there is also a dress fabric called “acetate” (it's like a faux silk). Today we will focus only on the hard type that is used for glasses / sunglasses, but if you're curious about the softer type of acetate, this is a good article.
One benefit of bio-acetate is that instead of heavily relying on chemicals derived from oil (like regular plastics), it uses base materials like wood or cotton from sustainable sources. So starting off with a win! Another benefit is that when compared to other types of common plastics, cellulose acetate actually biodegrades 150 times faster. Yes -1-5-0 ! So, within three years bio-acetate biodegrades in a natural setting AND it degrades in seawater - making for happy fish 🐡 🐟 🐠. And the good news doesn't stop there: because of its biodegradability, bio-acetate is also considered hypoallergenic and skin-friendly.
Putting biodegradability into perspective.
What are the key challenges surrounding the wider use of bio-acetate?
One challenge with bio-acetate is scale. Currently, the amount of bio-acetate being produced is well below demand, which makes it difficult to integrate it faster into commercial products to make them more eco-friendly.
Another challenge that generally comes with bioplastics is how it's disposed of. This is because you can't really just chuck it out in the forest and have it biodegrade. Why? Because in products like eyewear, for example, you also have metal screws and other small parts that have to be separated, so a process of dismantling is required (at times requiring specialised tools) which is perhaps not always super practical for consumers.
In addition to this, consumers still have a poor understanding of what bio plastics are (but not you since you're reading this post 💁🏻♀️) and how exactly to dispose of bio-acetate. Thus, more consumer awareness is needed in order for the entire lifecycle of this product to be fully achieved in a responsible manner. Definitely doable, but it will take time.
The part I love the most about bio-acetate?
Whilst researching this article, what stood out for me the most was the fact that bio-acetate is great not only because it's basically a biodegradable plastic, but it also for the fact that it outperforms other biodegradable plastics due to its ability to degrade in various environments, see below!
How can we incorporate bio-acetate in our lives?
At present, bio-acetate is really only used for the frames of glasses and sunglasses. There are several eyewear brands using them in their products, such as Stella McCartney, Monc, Bird or even Chloé's favourite: Crap Eyewear. I do wonder if, however, in the future there will be other uses for this material that can be extended to potentially other everyday objects. I'm in no need of new frames anytime soon but will definitely be interested in picking up some frames with this kicker material next time around. I'm not sure when that will be but who knows, maybe by then there will be a few other types of products I'll be able to get my hands on that will also be made from bio-acetate 🤔
Sweet frames from Stella McCartney (left) and MONC (right)