Laundry and Dishwasher Pods: Popular but Polluting

By Elaine Simmons

Laundry and dishwasher pods have quickly become consumer favorites. People love the convenience of the pre-measured packets for the dishwasher or washer. I used them for about a year until I realized that the laundry pods’ film wrapping—the part that supposedly dissolves—is made of polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), a plastic that several sources said is not fully biodegradable. 

One study showed that over 75% of intact plastic particles from laundry and dishwasher pods can be released into oceans, rivers, canals, and soil. In wastewater, this plastic film has the potential to absorb dangerous chemicals or contaminants, antibiotics, or heavy metals at high concentrations and then work their way up the food chain. 

Be aware that companies that make PVA pods often tout their environmental credentials, such as using plastic-free containers and avoiding harsh chemicals. There is debate over whether PVA completely dissolves under normal water treatment conditions but, as a layperson, I think the “no” side had a stronger argument. 

Thus, I stopped using pods and hope others will do the same. So now I only use tablets or powder. Blueland makes both laundry and dishwasher tablets with no PVA wrapper and I am happy with their products. There are other good options. According to the website Sustainable Jungle (, the following brands are totally plastic-free, in terms of the container and the lack of PVA: etee, Bestowed Essentials, Ethique, Meliora, Dr. Bonners, Zero Co., and Dirty Labs.