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What is PEVA? Sustainability, Pros, and Cons

PEVA stands for polyethylene vinyl acetate. It is exactly the same as ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA). This article answers the following questions: What is PEVA (EVA)? Is it sustainable? How is it any better than PVC?

Most people view PEVA as an eco-friendly, healthier alternative to polyvinyl chloride (PVC). You may not be familiar with the material, but the shower curtain in your bathroom that keeps water in the shower stall or tub is likely made from PEVA. Read on to find out more about this material.

What is PEVA material?

peva closeup
Photo by Rotor DB on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (Cropped from original).

PEVA is a type of thermoplastic created by combining ethylene, vinyl acetate, and other materials. The proportion of vinyl acetate varies from 10 to 50%, depending on what form of PEVA they want to produce. 

They manufacture PEVA through a process called thermal plastic extrusion. It involves melting polyethylene and vinyl acetate pellets using high temperatures. Then, they may extrude thin strands or use injection molds to create the desired product.

You may often hear PEVA being referred to as non-chlorinated vinyl because they created it to be the chlorine-free, non-toxic version of PVC. It has grown in popularity over the years, especially as a cheap yet non-toxic and odorless shower curtain.

PEVA's qualities 

peva clogs
Photo by SOMeiKUEN on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (Cropped from original).

PEVA is most suitable for products that require water resistance and malleability. It has many great qualities that make it a favorite for manufacturers.

Let's look at some of PEVA’s qualities below.

Fabric-like texture

Although PEVA is a plastic that can come in many forms, it can be produced as thin foam, solid blocks, or soft sheets.

Its most used form is a fabric-like material. PEVA fabric is glossy and soft, making it a great material for shower curtains.

Waterproof and mold-resistant 

PEVA is water resistant and doesn't easily sustain water damage. That also means that the material is highly resistant to mold and mildew. Manufacturers apply PEVA to other materials to waterproof them.

Durability 

You'll find that low temperatures do not easily damage PEVA products. The material can stand up to UV rays and heat. It also has some fire resistance. 

What are some PEVA products?

peva jigsaw foam board
Photo by Robin Parker on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).

PEVA’s qualities make it helpful in manufacturing many household products. Some PEVA products you might have in your house are shower curtains, waterproof mattress protectors, waterproof inflatable toys, plastic table coverings, car covers, shoes, etc.

PEVA is the material of choice in products that must be non-toxic due to how we use them—for example, baby suckers, gum shields, waterproof baby bibs, baby toys, etc. 

Other items made from PEVA include solid hot glue adhesives and lining for insulated cooler bags, backpacks, and cosmetic purses. Thin sheets of EVA foam are used to make cosplay costumes and other crafts.

You'll find PEVA in electronics, especially heaters and in book bindings. You can also find trace amounts of PEVA in cigarettes and nicotine patches.

Caring for PEVA 

PEVA is a durable material, but without the proper care, you won't enjoy its durability. 

The material is machine washable, but that would make it wear out quickly. The best thing to do is hand wash your PEVA product in lukewarm, soapy water. You can choose to simply wipe the item down.

Another thing is that you shouldn't put PEVA into the dryer. The material may shrink and weaken. Yes, PEVA has some heat and fire resistance, but you should keep it away from direct or intense heat. 

Is PEVA sustainable?

peva kickboard
Photo by Clescuyer on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (Cropped from original).

While PEVA may be mostly non-toxic, there are more criteria it needs to meet before we can agree that the material is truly environmentally friendly. To determine how sustainable PEVA is, we look at its lifecycle, from raw material to its end-of-life. 

It may be fossil fuel-based.

The exact source materials for PEVA are not easy to pinpoint every time because they are different sources of ethylene and vinyl. 

Those substances can be sourced from natural gas and petroleum. They also occur in plants and fruits. It is difficult to know the exact source material for the PEVA you are getting. That means manufacturers can use fossil fuel-based ingredients but lead people to believe their PEVA is plant-based. 

It is safer than PVC but needs more studies.

Is PEVA safe? It is preferred as the safer alternative to PVC. The material doesn't contain phthalates or other toxic chemicals you'd have to worry about with PVC.

However, while PEVA might be relatively safer, it still contains synthetic chemicals. The material has not been studied long enough to understand its long-term effects on humans.

To safeguard your family's health, try to keep PEVA from direct contact with food. You should also choose medical-grade silicone over PEVA for baby or pet chew toys.

It is biodegradable but not for backyard composting,

Some sources claim PEVA is biodegradable because the material contains acetate, which means it is plant-based. Others refuse this claim because plant origins don't guarantee that the end product is organic. Rayon is a good example.

Even if biodegradability claims are true, no PEVA product will decompose in your backyard compost bin. Only a commercial composting facility would be able to provide the necessary conditions needed for it to decompose.

It is recyclable but needs special facilities.

Is PEVA recyclable? Yes. It is easier to recycle compared to PVC because it is non-toxic and doesn't pose much of a health hazard during the recycling process.

However, you may need curbside recycling to recycle your PEVA shower curtain liner. You'll need to find a local recycling facility that accepts it. The absence or scarcity of such facilities locally is one reason recycling the PEVA material is hard.

PEVA vs PVC

What is PEVA, and how does it differ from PVC? They have similar functions and prices. But one is advertised as being better for the environment than the other.

Let's take a closer look at both plastics.

PVC 

Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, is one of the most popular types of plastic. It is so versatile that they have used it for everything from car parts to packaging and shower curtains. However, they consider it to be one of the most toxic plastics. 

PVC contains chlorine, phthalates, bisphenol-A (BPA), and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs)3. Various researchers have linked these chemicals to cancer, infertility, hormonal disruption, liver damage, impaired child development, and asthma.

Authorities in many countries have banned PVC in children's toys and products that touch food. When you expose PVC products to heat, they release toxic chemicals into the air. So, a PVC shower curtain is not a healthy choice if you enjoy hot baths.

PEVA 

Polyethylene vinyl acetate, or PEVA, is chlorine-free. It also doesn't contain many toxic chemicals we know PVC for. Therefore, PEVA shower curtains are safer if you compare them to PVC shower curtains or vinyl liners. 

However, a PEVA product is still plastic and can negatively affect the environment and human health. Polyethylene is not biodegradable. Even if adding vinyl acetate makes decomposition possible, research shows that bioplastics often release microplastics after degradation1.

Another research claims that PEVA isn't 100% non-toxic and presents evidence that it negatively impacts2 simple-celled living organisms. Some PEVA products may contain BPA. The researchers hold that PEVA may contain some toxic chemicals that have yet to be studied.

Alternatives to PEVA Shower Curtains 

shower curtain
Photo by House Method on Unsplash.

PEVA shower curtains are much safer than PVC shower curtains. Although the jury is still out, a PEVA shower curtain liner may emit some harmful chemicals. Let's look at some alternatives. 

You could consider non-toxic shower curtains made from organic fabrics. They may not be the cheapest option, but they are the best for the environment. They make eco-friendly fabrics that are sourced organically and ethically, colored with low-impact dyes, and fully biodegradable.

Will these fabric shower curtains hold up to water? They weave them tightly, wax them, or treat them with waterproofing solutions to make them water-resistant. Many of the options are also fast-drying.

Hemp shower curtains 

Hemp is a fast-growing plant that doesn't require pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers. It doesn't require much water and produces an impressively high yield with small land.

Cultivating hemp helps improve soil nutrients. We also value hemp as a carbon-negative material because the plant absorbs more CO2 from the atmosphere than the fiber releases during production.

The hemp fabric is naturally antibacterial. It also dries quickly and won't succumb to mold and mildew in a well-ventilated bathroom.

Learn more about hemp.

Linen shower curtains 

Linen comes from flax stems, and it is one of the more expensive organic fabrics. It comes in naturally neutral colors. 

Farmers grow flax without using herbicides, pesticides, and other agrochemicals that pollute the environment. The plant is not water intensive and can produce a full harvest with just rainwater. 

Linen is not mold-resistant, but it is lightweight and dries out fast. So, as long as you use it in bathrooms that take in a lot of air, it will be fine. The fiber is quite strong, so linen shower curtains will endure machine wash without damage.

Learn more about linen.

Cotton shower curtains 

Shower curtains made with cotton are luxurious and long-lasting. You'll have to be careful to prevent mold from developing on cotton shower curtains because the fabric takes a long to dry.

You should only purchase shower curtains that they have made using fair-trade organic cotton. That's because conventional cotton consumes water unsustainably and leads to droughts. It is also chemically intensive. 

Additionally, conventional cotton production sometimes involves child labor and farmer exploitation.

Learn more about cotton.

Nylon shower curtains 

You may consider a shower curtain made from recycled nylon. It is obviously waterproof and won't get moldy too quickly. You can get a nice quality nylon shower curtain for a low price, too. However, you may not be able to recycle the curtain, and it will eventually end up in the landfill, where it will degrade into microplastics

We have a list of eco-friendly shower curtains that you should immediately see if you plan on buying one soon.

If you want to swap other PEVA products with safer options, you can look at other types of plastic, like silicone. You should consider items made from wood, cork, plant-based leather, and other organic substances.

Conclusion: What is PEVA?

PEVA is a kind of plastic that people value as an excellent alternative to PVC. It has many applications but is popular as shower curtains. It doesn't have all the toxins usually associated with PVC and yet has all the great qualities.

As incredible as PEVA is, there's still some concern about its long-term effects on human health. Therefore, you should try to purchase better alternatives. For example, choose shower curtains made from biodegradable materials and manufactured using non-toxic chemicals.

1

Jin, L., & Chen, Q. (2021). Biodegradable plastics in the air and soil environment: Low degradation rate and high microplastics formation. Journal of Hazardous Materials.

2

Meng, T. T. (2014). Volatile organic compounds of polyethylene vinyl acetate plastic are toxic to living organisms. Journal of Toxicological Sciences.

3

United States Environmental Protection Agency, EPA (2021) Volatile Organic Compounds’ Impact on Indoor Air Quality  EPA.gov.

By Jennifer Okafor, BSc.

Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.

Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.

Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.

Photo by VYLENCZ on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).
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