We have been running the ‘Beat the Microbead’ campaign since 2012. The objective of the campaign is to prevent plastic microbeads in personal care products ending up in the sea. We have asked consumers to stop using products containing microbeads. The Beat the Microbead app makes it easy to check whether a product contains plastic.

Tiny particles of plastic have been added to possibly thousands of personal care products sold around the world. They have been found in scrubs, shampoo, body wash, moisturizer, make-up, sunscreen, toothpaste and other cosmetic products. These microbeads, hardly visible to the naked eye, flow straight from the bathroom drain into the sewer system. Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to filter out microbeads and that is the main reason why, ultimately, they contribute to the plastic soup swirling around the world’s oceans. Sea creatures absorb or eat microbeads. These microbeads are passed along the marine food chain. Since humans are ultimately at the top of this food chain, it is likely that we are also absorbing microbeads from the food we eat. Microbeads are not biodegradable and once they enter the marine environment, they are impossible to remove.

The Beat the Microbead coalition is supported by 90 NGOs from 38 countries around the world. The latest addition to the campaign seeks to reward cosmetic brands that are 100% free of microplastics in their products, so they can apply to carry our “Zero Plastic Inside” logo. There are currently 29 cosmetic brands that have applied for the Zero.

In 2014, the Plastic Soup Foundation won the Dutch PR Awards in the “Nonprofit” category. In addition, ‘De Onderscheiding’ was also awarded. This award is awarded annually to special initiatives that make a difference with the support of equity funds.

Look for the Zero

Recent research (UNEP report ‘Plastic in Cosmetics’, 2015 and TAUW-report “Test to assess and prevent the emission of primary synthetic microparticles”), shows that many more types of plastics are added to personal care products than previously thought. It also shows that some plastic microbeads are replaced with bio-based/bio-degradable microbeads which do not break down in water. On top of this, the use of nanoplastics in cosmetics is a worrying development. It makes it very difficult for consumers to choose ‘plastic free’ products.

This is why we change the burden of proof. Instead of consumers having to check and choose, we are asking producers to declare their care products free of microplastics. Plastic free products will be included in the new Zero category of the Beat the Microbead website and app. The brands that do not use microplastics can carry the ‘Zero plastic inside’ logo. In one glance, this logo makes it clear for consumers that a product is guaranteed 100% free of microplastics.

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