Swap Synthetic Sponge Out For Coconut Walnut Sponge
Sponges can be used to clean dishes, countertops, appliances, and basically any surface that requires some scrubbing. But most sponges are nonrecyclable and nonbiodegradable making them a burden for the environment.
The Harmful Reality of Plastic Sponges On The Environment
Most traditional sponges are made from synthetic materials such as polyurethane foam and plastic. They are not biodegradable, meaning if they somehow end up in an open environment, they will not break themselves naturally becoming an environmental hazard.
Even when you are careful that it does not end up being as litter, it breaks into microplastics with every use. Microplastics are generally so small that they are uncatchable by filters. As a result, they get washed off to seas and lakes and end up in the stomach of marine mammals.
They are not recyclable either as the raw material is not exactly plastic but a combination of multiple synthetic materials. So the end-of-life for plastic sponges is a literal waste.
Synthetic sponges are generally treated with chemicals during the manufacturing process. Since it gets exposed to different kinds of food particles and dirt, antibacterial agents like triclosan and triclocarban are used to keep it protected from bacteria and other microorganisms.
Also, sponges are often topped with fragrances to mask odor that may have been produced by the growth of microorganisms and are polished with plasticizers and surfactants to make them smooth and flexible.
When you use these sponges or throw them away in the trash, some of the chemicals leak and enter the natural environment which can be harmful to animals living in the water or on the land.
Plastic sponges are thrown away after a few uses because they either get deformed or start to smell bad. The chemicals used to retain the shape and keep it odorless lose their effectiveness quickly forcing users to dispose of it prematurely.
This increases the total amount of waste being generated from one household (almost nearly a single-use waste) and for the material being mixed-synthetic, it can neither be recycled into something useful.
What To Replace Synthetic Sponge With
A good eco-friendly alternative to a synthetic sponge is a plant-based sponge. There are sea sponges and loofahs as other options but coconut walnut sponges are the closest to your regular dish sponges in terms of feel.
They last longer than traditional plastic sponges, reducing the need for frequent replacements and reducing waste. They are also chemical-free, and cruelty-free, and have natural antimicrobial properties that make them an excellent eco-friendly candidates.
The kitchen sponge from AIRNEX is my favorite. With one side being absorbent and the other abrasive, it feels and works like any other normal sponge. The mixed walnut-coconut husks are free from allergens.
From cellulose to shell, everything on this product is plant-based and vegan including the packaging itself. Each sponge lasts roundabout 2-3 weeks of heavy use and they can be composted or thrown into the bio bin once it is time to handle end-of-life.
What took my attention is that AIRNEX plants a tree for you on every purchase to offset the plant-based raw material that goes into the production.
P.S. do not be alarmed if you see Amazon has classified the material as plastic in the description. The company has confirmed that it is a glitch that they are trying to solve together with Amazon.
What Makes Plant-Based Sponge Eco-Friendly
Natural Biodegradable Materials
Most plant-based sponge uses white cellulose and food waste as the main raw material for production. White cellulose is derived from the cell walls of plants, and coconut fibers and walnut shells are byproducts of the food industry which are normally discarded as waste products.
They are also compostable. Meaning when you are done using one of these sponges, you can compost them and they will break naturally for their biodegradable properties. If composting is not an option, you can dispose of them in a bio bin without any safety concerns.
The biggest complaint about sponge alternatives was that they did not feel the same. While that might be true for loofahs or cloths, plant-based sponges these days can offer a near-identical feel. You will be doing good for the planet without realizing the change that you just made.
Not only the feel but they can also be used just as versatility, from your dishes, and countertops to sinks and toilets. Some people like the abrasiveness of food husks as they tend to be rougher which comes in extra handy when you want to, for example, rub stoves or a terrace.
Renewable materials are not the only things these kitchen sponges boast about. They offer a significantly longer lifespan and a very good end of life.
Where you normally change a plastic sponge every other week, a coconut/walnut-based sponge will easily last you about 2 to 3 weeks. They will last even longer if you keep them wet as they often fall apart in halves when too dry.
Once it is time to dispose of them, you can compost if the option is available. If not, they go fine with your other food waste.
The Tradeoffs Of Using Coconut Walnut Scrubber Sponges
Scratchy On Skin
One side of these sponges is made from coconut fibers which can feel scratchy on your skin. If you use it roughly barehanded, it could leave some scratches on the skin. It is therefore recommended that you wear gloves while using them.
You should also know that this can be subjective as these sponges go through a long softening process in production to reduce abrasiveness and not scratch stainless pans. It is best to just try one and see what it feels like. The same goes for your dishes. Start on a small area of your dish and see how that goes.
Cost And Availability
Biodegradable sponges are more expensive than synthetic sponges. Because of our infrastructure, the cost of plant-based raw materials is always more than the polyurethane used in a plastic sponge. It is also difficult to find it in regular supermarkets.
While there is nothing much we could do about availability at this moment other than ordering it from online shops, the cost is easily justified with the 2x lifespan it offers and the environmental good it does.