Insights from industry

All-Natural Replacements for Plastic Microbeads

Alan Nudelman, President of Composition Materials Co., Inc. (CMC), speaks to AZoM about the environmental issues that microbead plastics present to ecosystems and how their all-natural products can help solve this growing problem.

What natural products has CMC developed over the years for use by the cosmetics industry?

We have been supplying ground Walnut Shell to a variety of industries since the 1950's and therefore have years of expertise in grinding, classifying, quality control and packaging.

In the early 1980's, Composition Materials Co., Inc. was approached by one of the early cosmetic companies developing formulations with natural raw ingredients. The first ingredients we supplied were ground Walnut Shell (Fig. 1) and Apricot Pit Shell (Fig. 3).

These offer excellent exfoliation action, product consistency and versatility for use in scrubs, soaps and personal care formulations. We also developed cosmetic applications for Pecan Shell and Almond Meal.

Walnut Shell for Cosmetics

Figure 1. Walnut Shell for Cosmetics

Several years ago, we were approached by a large cosmetic formulator to develop a white all-natural ingredient for exfoliation. This led to the development of our unique natural white exfoliant made from Tagua, a sustainably sourced non-edible palm nut from the rainforest in South America.

We have helped many cosmetic companies in selecting the ingredient type and size that best suits their application and market.

What does sustainability mean?

In this instance, it refers to the ability for the ingredient to be replenished with each new crop. Since Walnut, Apricot, Almond, Pecan and Tagua are derived from fruits or nuts of trees, they are a replenished each year.

In addition, the shells of Walnut, Apricot and Pecan are by-products of the food industry. These ingredients are sustainable and green; they do not require the mining of minerals and do not contain any chemical additives.

Do you have a large market for these products today?

It has been a large market for years. And recently, with many states passing legislation to ban the use of plastic Microbeads in personal care products, there is increased interest in natural raw ingredients. We expect the demand for natural products to grow as cosmetic companies and formulators worldwide look for Microbead alternatives.

Update: Since this article was written, the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 has been signed into law, which bans the sale and manufacture of products containing plastic microbeads throughout the USA. The manufacturing ban comes into effect from July 2017, ahead of the previous state bans.

What are the advantages of these natural products?

The biggest advantage is environmental. The harm caused by plastic Microbeads has led 7 states to pass legislation banning these tiny plastic particles from cosmetic products.

Research indicates that fish mistake microbeads for food and the plastics work their way up the food chain. The other advantage is sustainability. Cosmetic companies are looking at these natural products, such as Walnut, Apricot and Tagua, which are biodegradable.

Tagua Cosmetic White Exfoliant

Figure 2. Tagua Cosmetic White Exfoliant

Are there objections to natural products in the cosmetics industry?

We understand that cosmetics companies may prefer uniformity in color, as well as using a variety of colors that may not occur in nature. Some natural products are not as uniform in color. Our Tagua product is a natural white color and this can be a very good option.

There are many natural options available in large quantities, however, there could be some variable in crop year-to-year causing some supply or price changes. In comparison to plastics, natural products may be more expensive. However, they avoid the environmental cost in using plastics in skincare products.

Can you overcome these objections?

We have a long history of working with agricultural by-products all the way to our company's founding in 1923. For many years we have manufactured very consistent products in terms of supply and quality.

With regard to color preferences, this seems to be an evolving question that the industry will be weighing in its new formulations as required by Microbead legislation. As the public becomes more familiar with the impact of Microbeads, perhaps consumers will prefer products with natural ingredients.

Is there enough supply to satisfy the cosmetics industry?

We think so. So far we feel confident we can meet an increased demand with high quality product. Our figures indicate that we have secured supply to meet significant increases. We would love to be tested.

Apricot Pit Shell for Cosmetics

Figure 3. Apricot Pit Shell for Cosmetics

Where are these products grown?

California is the largest grower. We have also worked with Turkey, Central and South America. With our Tagua, we are proud to have developed a sustainable supply in South America which employs many workers while respecting the rainforest environment.

Tagua comes from a rainforest palm tree and its non-edible nuts have a consistency and color similar to ivory. It has been called vegetable ivory for many years. Success in the use of Tagua helps to protect these rainforest trees from deforestation, provide jobs, and also provides a natural alternative to ivory.

About Alan Nudelman

lan Nudelman

Alan Nudelman has been the President of Composition Materials Co., Inc. for 27 years.

Since 1923, Composition Materials has specialized in value added fillers and abrasives for industries worldwide including manufacturing, paint & coatings, aviation, aerospace, automotive, medical, non-skid, engineered surfaces and cosmetics.

Nearly all of the fillers and abrasives supplied by Composition Materials are manufactured from raw materials that are from recycled, sustainable or renewable sources.

Alan Nudelman has continued the tradition since the company’s founding in 1923 of developing ‘green’ products and their uses and applications.

For example, Composition Materials began producing ground walnut shell products in the 1950’s for filler applications and later in pressure blasting for paint removal and blast cleaning.

Ground walnut shells have unique characteristics due to their hardness and angularity of the particles. Furthermore, they are a renewable resource that is all-natural and biodegradable.

In the 1980’s, the cosmetics industry began to include natural raw ingredients and Composition Materials began supplying ground apricot shell and walnut shell for use in personal care products. For over 30 years, these have been used in formulations for scrubs, soaps and exfoliation products by cosmetics companies worldwide.

In response to industry demand, in 2005 Alan Nudelman developed an all-natural white exfoliation scrub made from tagua, a non-edible, sustainable and renewable rainforest product. Tagua is very attractive for cosmetic formulators looking for all-natural biodegradable ingredients where the color white in preferred.

Bills to ban plastic microbeads from personal care products have passed in 6 states, with legislation pending in more states. This has prompted cosmetics companies to commit to phasing out the use of plastic microbeads.

As formulators are developing alternatives to microbeads, Composition Materials brings over 30 years of experience with natural cosmetics raw ingredients. Their all-natural tagua, apricot, walnut, and almond based products provide sustainable, renewable and biodegradable options for the industry.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of Limited (T/A) AZoNetwork, the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and Conditions of use of this website.

Alessandro Pirolini

Written by

Alessandro Pirolini

Alessandro has a BEng (hons) in Material Science and Technology, specialising in Magnetic Materials, from the University of Birmingham. After graduating, he completed a brief spell working for an aerosol manufacturer and then pursued his love for skiing by becoming a Ski Rep in the Italian Dolomites for 5 months. Upon his return to the UK, Alessandro decided to use his knowledge of Material Science to secure a position within the Editorial Team at AZoNetwork. When not at work, Alessandro is often at Chill Factore, out on his road bike or watching Juventus win consecutive Italian league titles.


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