Plant-based foam has become a hot topic amongst my friends recently. Some are for it, and some are against using it. I decided to investigate further to see what information is out there before making my decision. Actually, after doing the research, I have found this topic is quite controversial!
Plant-based foam is a product derived from renewable plant-based natural ingredients like cornstarch, latex from rubber trees, and sugar cane. Plant-based foam replaces some petroleum-based polyurethane making many products sustainable and more eco-friendly than pure petroleum-based products.
If you are trying to live a natural, organic lifestyle and choose plant-based materials and ingredients over synthetic or manufactured materials, you may think that plant-based foam would be a good, all-natural material that is safe to use. Unfortunately, what companies market as a plant-based foam is not always wholly natural, and the product can still produce toxins.
What Is Plant-Based Eco Foam?
Plant-based means that the product is made from natural ingredients harvested from a natural source. These materials are made from renewable plant-based natural ingredients like latex from rubber trees, corn, and sugar cane.
By choosing products that contain plant-based materials, we are minimizing our reliance on non-renewable resources, which is good news for the planet!
The traditional foam contains petroleum-based polyurethane as the base ingredient for the product. Plant-based foam replaces some of the petroleum-based chemicals in the product.
Plant-based does not mean organic. So, even though you may have chosen your product because it states that it is plant-based unless it states that it is 100% organic or natural, it will contain non-organic, manufactured ingredients.
Does this mean that you should never choose anything that is listed as being made with plant-based ingredients? Of course, not. It simply means you should read the labels before you pay and make sure that you are getting the intended product.
Which Products Use Plant-Based Foam?
For many people, when reading the term “plant-based,” we would assume that the product is entirely natural, organic, and healthy. This is not always the case, so check the labels carefully!
With more people choosing a natural, healthier lifestyle, many unscrupulous manufacturers are advertising their products as plant-based to attract customers aspiring to this mindset. Most health-conscious customers prefer products that have little to no toxins and harmful chemicals.
Some of the most significant plant-based foam users are mattress manufacturers. We all need a good night’s sleep and can spend weeks searching for the best mattress for our needs. Finding a memory foam mattress that advertises the use of plant-based foam is an added attraction!
Traditional mattresses have problems with firmness, heat retention, and they contain chemicals. Even if they include some polyurethane, plant-based foam mattresses have better properties than conventional mattresses, they improve breathability and are temperature neutral.
Some leading mattress manufacturing brands have developed plant-based foams which are free of chemicals and toxins. They follow eco-conscious shipping practices and are quite affordable, making them appealing to people following a vegan lifestyle!
Another type of plant-based foam, polylactic acid (PLA), is made from renewable resources like cornstarch, tapioca roots, or sugarcane. This plant-based foam is the main ingredient for making organ transport boxes, icebox insulation, and house insulation and is widely used in the medical industry for anchors, screws, pins, plates, and rods.
An environmentally-friendly choice for packaging, PLA is entirely renewable. It is the material of choice for green packaging companies that produce hot cups, food containers, and cutlery.
PLA emits fewer gases during manufacturing than other plastics, making this an all-around healthier product for humans and the environment. This type of bio-foam is biodegradable and can be composted.
Simply toss your used packaging and cutlery onto the compost pile when you have finished using them! If composting is not for you, throw your used product in the trash as PLA has a life expectancy of 50 years! It can be recycled, remolded, and used again.
Is Plant-Based Foam Safe?
The answer to this question is based on the product that you are using. As a renewable, environmentally-friendly insulating material, then yes, it is entirely safe. If your packaging is made from plant-based foam, the product is safe to use and good for the environment.
When choosing a mattress, always do your research and make sure that you have a 100% organic, natural mattress. If the manufacturer claims that the mattress is eco-friendly or made from plant-based foam, you may only be buying a mattress that contains 5 – 20% plant-based ingredients. The balance of the material, which is up to 80%, is petroleum-based chemical products.
While the chemicals in the mattress may not harm you unless you are allergic to them, if you are paying for a 100% organic product, that is what you should get! A 100% organic, the natural mattress will not contain any chemical products and is guaranteed by the USDA as a chemical-free product.
Is Soy Foam Toxic?
Soy does seem to have a bad reputation when it comes to soy foam. Contrary to popular belief, soy foam is not made from soybeans! Soy foam is, in fact, made from petrochemicals! So, even though you think you are buying a green product containing soy, it might only contain between 3 – 20% soy, depending on the product.
Soy-based products often produce a strong chemical odor. This is known in the industry as off-gassing and is derived from the chemicals used to make the synthetic foam. Some unscrupulous companies use perfume or green tea to mask the harsh chemical odor!
The process of off-gassing allows a compound known as isocyanates to be released into the air. Isocyanates can cause asthma attacks in vulnerable people and have been known to cause lung irritation in others.
So, it would seem that soy foam is not a great choice if you are looking for sustainable, natural, environmental chemical-free products.
If the product that you have chosen states that it is plant-based but does not list the plant, chances are it is soy-based. Always identify the ingredients if you are indeed looking for a 100% organic product.