Microbeads: lately they have been all over the news, but what exactly are they and why are they so bad?
Microbeads are minuscule pieces of plastic that are even smaller than sand, they are not biodegradable and worst of all, they are EVERYWHERE! Experts estimate that there are more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic in our oceans of which more than 92% are microbeads.
Mostly we find them in personal care products and cosmetics like toothpaste, bodywash or facesoap and they are used as exfoliants or for texture. As they are cheaper than natural exfoliants, industry quickly switched to plastic ones, making their products more profitable for them. But little did they know (or did they?) that they were polluting our waters at light speed.
But why are they so bad? So when we use products containing microbrads we literately send them from our face straight into the ocean! These tiny particles go down the drain and are not filtered at water treatment plants as they are simply so small that they even pass through sand filters. So they end up in fully treated waters and go to river, lakes and finally end up in our oceans. Meanwhile they load up on toxins like a sponge, which makes them highly toxic. Sea life feed on these microbeads thinking it is food, however they get poisoned. The toxic beads get passed on along the marine food chain, and can finally end up on people’s plates again (So one more reason to go vegan guys!). Those that are not eaten by fish or birds end up in the huge plastic soup swirling around the world’s oceans. So to sum it up they make up for a massive part of the pollution of the oceans and affect the ecosystem of our wildlife.
What can we do?
First of all stop buying products that contain microbeads, which will force companies to rethink their products. Avoid products with ingredients like polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and nylon or just use the lists on http://www.beatthemicrobead.org/ to see which products are plastic free. They also offer a very useful app, make sure to use it on your next visit to the drug store. Also look for the ‘Look for the Zero’ logo.
Things are happening and a lot of companies have already stopped producing cosmetics containing microbeads and some brands already claim that they are 100% free of microplastics (like Sante Naturkosmetik). Others promised to phase out, unfortunately they don’t mention an exact date. There are also countries banning them, for example in December 2015 Obama signed the bill against microbeads: the Microbead-Free Waters Act. The Netherlands, Sweden and Canada are already on board.
Lets help keeping plastic out of our oceans!
Here’s a nice, vegan and plastic free exfoliant I regularly use: Herbalism by Lush Cosmetics
They use ground almonds and rice bran as exfoliants. Both are biodegradable.