Microplastics are pieces of plastic smaller than 5 millimeters. They enter the environment through the defragmentation of larger plastic that has been left in the environment or directly as microbeads through things like synthetic fibers from clothes or tire wear.
Possibly thousands of personal care products sold across the globe have miniscule grains of plastic incorporated in them. These particles are microplastics; the cosmetics industry calls them microbeads. These beads are processed in products like shampoo and scrubs. But other cosmetic products, such as sunburn lotions, moisturizers and make-up, can also contain microplastics.
Microplastics cannot or hardly be discerned with the naked eye and enter the sewer system through the shower drain. Sewage treatment plants have not been designed to filter microbeads from waste water, which is the most important reason why the eventually contribute to the plastic soup. Sea animals ingest microbeads and then finally end up on our plates. Microbeads and microplastics do not decompose and once they enter the environment uncontrolled they are impossible to remove.
In 2012 the Plastic Soup Foundation started campaigning against microbeads. The Beat the Microbead campaign is now supported by 90 NGOs from 38 countries worldwide. Furthermore, this campaign wants to reward cosmetic brands that are 100% microplastic free. Plastic-free brands therefore get our “Zero Plastic Inside” logo. So far 29 brands were eligible for the Zero.
The worldwide Beat the Microbead campaign has thus far led to the eradication of microbeads in cosmetics in countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia. Click here to read more about the campaign.