Tiny particles of plastic called microbeads have recently made headlines for polluting the world’s oceans and contaminating marine life.
Microbeads are found in thousands of personal care products like facial scrubs, soaps and toothpastes. The plastics found in microbeads include polyethylene and polypropylene and are the same types used to make common household plastic containers.
It’s sobering to think we unknowingly use plastic laden products on ourselves on a daily basis and even more sobering is that there are about 300,000 microbeads in an average bottle of face scrub.
These hardly visible particles flow straight from our bathroom drain into the sewer system. Not being biodegradable, once they enter our waterways, they are impossible to remove. Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to filter them out and ultimately, they contaminate the world’s oceans.
What happens next in this destructive cycle is that our marine life absorb or eat microbeads. If you follow the food chain, since humans are at the top, it’s highly likely that we are also absorbing microbeads from the food we eat. So ultimately, we are hurting ourselves.
The thing is, it’s really easy to replace microbeads with natural alternatives like salt, apricot shells or cocoa beans.
Whilst countries such as the US and Canada have banned the use of microbeads in products, Australia is operating on a voluntary phase out.
The good news is that local supermarket giants Woolworths, Coles and Aldi have taken this up, pledging to phase out the use of the offending particles from their own-brand products.
On an international level, brands such as Unilever, L’Oréal, Colgate/Palmolive, Procter & Gamble, The Body Shop and Johnson & Johnson have also promised to completely phase out microbeads.
Given the use of microbeads in cosmetics is as recent as the middle of last decade, it’s amazing how fast and devastating their impact has been on our environment with contaminated marine life found in every ocean.
However, it’s encouraging to see how quickly the world has united to eradicate this potential environmental disaster in comparison to other environmental initiatives. Here’s hoping this trend continues.
To find out which products to avoid, check out Beat the Microbead website.