Do you already avoid disposable plastic bags? Then for the Better Bag Challenge and World Oceans Day, consider going to the next level – cut out microbeads!
Microbeads are lurking in your face wash
Cleaning products with microbeads are used on a daily basis by millions of people. Products like facial cleansers, scrubs, and toothpaste often contain “microplastics,” tiny plastic beads are used for cleaning and scrubbing.
One single bottle of product may contain more than 350,000 tiny beads. In some cases, the combined microbeads contain more plastic than the container they came in! The plastic container can be recycled, but the beads cannot.
From your sink – straight to the ocean
All of these plastic microbeads are washed down the drain when you use these products! Waste water treatment plants are not designed to remove the plastic beads washed down your sink because the beads are often too small to be filtered out or recycled. Consequently, they flow directly to the ocean. In the US, billions of microbeads from wastewater plants end up in the Great Lakes and coastal environments.
Plastic pollution is a serious threat because it degrades very slowly, polluting waterways for a very long time. In addition, plastic pollution impacts the health of aquatic animals because animals including zooplankton mistake the microbeads for food. Scientists also fear health impacts for humans.
In order to protect ocean and lake environments and meet international requirements to reduce marine litter sources, the use of microbeads in hygiene and care products must stop.
We’re making strides towards a future without microbeads
The Beat the Microbead campaign, started by Dutch NGOs Plastic Soup Foundation and Northsea Foundation in 2012, has been very successful in raising awareness. The campaign is currently supported by 66 NGOs from 32 countries. Check out the Plastic Soup Foundation’s news page to get updates.
Legislative measures are necessary to manage microbead plastic waste. Several US-states have banned products with microbeads and political discussions on the issue are currently being held in Canada and the European Union.
A number of multinational firms have pledged to phase out microplastics. However, their strategy is often to replace plastic microbeads made of synthetic polymers like polyethelene with biodegradable plastics, such as PLA. But these alternatives do not degrade in cold water. The only reliable way to get rid of microbeads is to replace them with natural alternatives.
What you can do:
-Be aware of what products you buy. Here’s a list of products with microbeads to avoid
-Find alternatives with natural ingredients. List of plastic-free products
-Beat the Microbead has created an app that you can download to check if a specific care product contains microplastics before buying it!