Prevent contamination by face masks
People all over the world have been advised to wear face masks. A downside is the kind of pollution that wasn’t there before because people massively use and throw away single-use non-medical face masks.
For about 10 years now, all major cosmetics brands have deliberately added micro, nano and even liquid plastics to cosmetics and personal care products. Sometimes they do this to give their products particular properties, but mostly the plastic is used as a cheap filler. Research commissioned by the Dutch environmental organization the Plastic Soup Foundation, among over 3,500 respondents, shows that 80% of people in the Netherlands find this worrying.
Microplastics are all plastics smaller than five millimetres, and they consist of a combination of polymers and chemical additives. The plastics are included in the list of ingredients on the packaging, but only under their chemical names such as tetrafluoroethylene or methyl methacrylate, and they are therefore unrecognisable to most people.
As many as 93% of the respondents surveyed demand the right to know exactly what is in their products. Almost as many, 88%, think it should be mandatory for manufacturers to clearly state that their product contains plastics. And 77% of consumers feel that ‘hiding’ plastic in the list of ingredients damages their confidence in the cosmetics brand.
The Plastic Soup Foundation, a member of the global movement Break Free From Plastic, has campaigned against deliberate plastic additives and hidden plastics in the list of ingredients of cosmetics since 2012. Its Beat the Microbead campaign has already resulted in the removal of microbeads from many brands of toothpaste and scrubs, but the ultimate goal is to make all skincare products and cosmetics plastic-free. Until this is the case, consumers should be able to choose themselves.
This is the reason why the Plastic Soup Foundation is releasing the free Beat the Microbead app today. The app uses machine learning software to read the list of ingredients on packaging and it can identify more than 500 different microplastics. The user immediately sees whether the scanned product contains microplastics and, if so, which ones.
Maria Westerbos, Director of the Plastic Soup Foundation says that ‘Our patience is at an end. In a letter to cosmetics manufacturers and the Dutch and the European Parliaments, we — and hundreds of other NGOs — demand transparency about the use of micro, nano, and liquid plastics. And we urge these companies to stop adding them. Until that happens, we are giving consumers a tool to make a conscious choice for themselves. Power to the people!’
The new app is a completely revised version of the Beat the Microbead app that was launched in 2012 and that has been downloaded over 245,000 times worldwide. This new version is also distributed free of charge by the Plastic Soup Foundation.
The app recognises more than 500 micro and nanoplastics officially defined as such by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), the environmental organisation UNEP and the engineering firm Tauw. These are labelled ‘red’ in the app. In addition, the app traces so-called sceptical plastics: synthetic polymers for which there is not enough information available on whether or not they are dangerous to humans and the environment. These fall into the ‘orange’ category. The app already recognises more than 100, but this list is growing rapidly. The ‘green’ category includes all products that do not contain ‘red’ or ‘orange’ plastics.
The app also helps to find more than 70 plastic-free alternative brands. These carry the Plastic Soup Foundation’s ‘Zero Plastic Inside’ certification. The English brand Beauty Kitchen, founded by Jo and Stuart Chidley, is one of them. They say that:
‘We are delighted with the launch of this digital tool. It will allow consumers globally to be more aware of the ingredients in their everyday items and encourage them to think more consciously overall regarding the sustainability of the products they are buying. We can collectively contribute to eliminating microplastics from all industries before they eliminate our planet.’
More and more scientists are concerned about the environmental damage of all the microplastics that end up in our waterways via the sewers, and about the direct health risks of care products to which plastics and additives have been added.
In contrast to all the studies that have proven how harmful microplastics are to the environment, we are only at the beginning of research into the direct impact on our health. Can these tiny plastics be ingested through our lips, for example? Do they penetrate our bodies and, if so, do they have any negative effects? There is growing international concern among scientists about possible health damage and a louder call for more research.
Seventy percent of the respondents believe that there should be a ban on plastic in skincare and cosmetic products. Work on this is already underway at the European level. The European Commission has tasked ECHA with researching any potential hazards of microplastics for both humans and the environment.
In January 2019, ECHA then proposed the reduction of intentionally added microplastics by at least 85%. If adopted, this reduction would reduce the amount of microplastics released into the environment in Europe by 400,000 tonnes over the next 20 years.
Microplastics are currently exempt from the standard procedures (REACH) that apply to chemicals distributed on the European market. They therefore do not need to be registered and little is known about the critical properties of these substances, such as persistence, bioaccumulation, and toxic characteristics (PBT criteria).
The cosmetics industry is strongly opposed to any possible restrictions and is trying to shorten ECHA’s list significantly. This is one of the primary reasons for the Plastic Soup Foundation to seek cooperation with partner organisations and, at the same time as launching the new app, it is calling on industry and politics to stop adding microplastics.
Delphine Lévi Alvarès, the European coordinator of the global movement Break Free From Plastic states:
‘Microplastics do not belong in our cosmetics. It’s a design failure that is putting our environment and health at risk, and it’s completely unnecessary as there are enough alternatives. This is why the EU has taken the initiative to restrict them, and it is critical that everybody gets behind this process so that it leads to an EU wide ban.’
The research was carried out at the end of May 2020 by No Ties BV and commissioned by the Plastic Soup Foundation. It concerns an online questionnaire among 3,530 Dutch people aged 18+. A panel (Peil.nl) was used for the analysis and people outside the panel are excluded from participation. The results were weighted according to the Golden Standard of the MOA.
There is significant and growing concern about the tiny plastic fibres that accumulate in water, soil and air. The number of synthetic nano and microfibers is increasing due to increased production and use, and also because plastic does not break down naturally, but fragments. What are the ultimate consequences for our health and the environment?
Research into the capture of the Bubble Barrier in the Westerdok in Amsterdam has started. Plastic Soup Foundation will research this captured canal plastic on behalf of Waterschap Amstel, Gooi and Vecht.
From 1 January 2021, tea bags and coffee pods may be disposed off with fruit, vegetable and garden waste (GFT).