What are plastic microbeads?
Microbeads are really tiny plastic particles usually smaller than two millimeters. The composition of microbeads can vary and often include polyethylene (PE) or polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethlyl methacrylate (PMMA) or nylon. Bottom line, it’s all plastic!
What products contain plastic microbeads?
Plastic microbeads are in face soaps, body washes, and even toothpastes. They are sometimes included in “age-defying” makeup, as well as lip gloss and nail polish. Most wastewater treatment doesn’t filter out microbeads, and they get discharged into waterways. As a result, micro-plastic particles are found in bays, gulfs and seas worldwide, as well as inland waterways.
Does microbead pollution impact us?
Could the plastic you’re washing your face with end up in your sushi? Crazy, but yes. Fish species that humans harvest for food have been known to eat micro-plastic particles at an alarming rate and the toxins absorbed in those plastics transfer to the fish tissue.
Plastic microbeads absorb persistent organic pollutants (long-lasting toxic chemicals like pesticides, flame retardants, motor oil and more) and other industrial chemicals that move up the food chain when the toxic-coated beads are consumed by fish and other marine organisms. A single microbead can be up to a million times more toxic than the water around it!
The research, commissioned by the Federal Office for the Environment in 2014 looked into microplastics pollution in Lake Geneva. The results, published in the Archives des Sciences journal, found plastic in every sample it took from the beaches of Lake Geneva. The main culprits were polystyrene beads, but hard plastics, plastic membranes and pieces of fishing line were also widespread as well as microbeads from personal care products and cosmetics.
How do I know if I’m washing my face or brushing my teeth with plastic?
If you see any of the following ingredients: polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalateor polymethyl methacrylate you’re cleaning up with plastic and being duped into contributing to plastic pollution in the environment!
What’s happening to put a stop to plastic microbeads?
In 2015, the United States enacted federal legislation to ban microbeads. The Story of Stuff Project led a coalition of over 100 groups to push back on industry-sponsored state legislation, and ultimately succeeded. Currently, other countries including Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and many others are considering microbead ban legislation as well.
Why can’t you just replace the microbeads with bio-degradable plastic?
Biodegradable plastics require an industrial scale composting facility to get the plastic really hot so it can degrade as intended. Since plastic microbeads are designed to wash down the drain, they simply won’t break down (not the mention the myriad other issues with bioplastics).
Why won’t the personal care products industry swap the plastic out for natural substitute?
Companies want to keep the plastic in their products because it’s cheap and easy to source. But more importantly, plastic microbeads are smoother than natural alternatives like apricot shells, jojoba beans, and pumice. Why is smoother “better”? Smoother means these cleansers will be less effective at exfoliating, which means you can use them everyday, which means they want you to buy more of their Stuff!
How can I help?
Using natural products as an alternative is the most direct way you can help to reduce the microbead pollution. Why not also look into the Ban the Bead campaign led by The Story of Stuff Project: http://storyofstuff.org/plastic-microbeads-ban-the-bead/?utm_source=nav