PE, PP, PET, PMMA – modern day cosmetic vampires (Microbeads plastic crisis)
Recently an environmental topic has come to light and it’s one that I think needs further discussion to really get the message out there. Many people who use cosmetic products that contain microbeads, will be unaware of the damage they are causing and that they’re unknowingly contributing to a huge environmental problem.
Microbeads plastic crisis
Microbeads can be found in a huge range of beauty products, commonly in the toothpaste, facial scrub and soap that you’re using on a daily basis. Essentially, microbeads are tiny plastic beads that are barely visible to the naked eye. They’re easily swilled down our sinks and then seep through the water treatment filters and into our lakes, rivers and seas.
This is part of a Microbeads plastic crisis which are extremely durable and are no different from littering with other forms of plastic. They contaminate our waters and don’t go anywhere, clogging up our seas, lakes and river. A recent survey of North America’s Great Lakes found up to 1.1 million beads per square kilometre of water. An estimated 8 trillion microbeads per day are being released into the waterways in the US alone – that’s enough to cover more than 300 tennis courts. Shockingly, this figure only accounts for the 1% of microbeads that get into the water drainage. 99% of microbeads end up in sewage where they are spread over land and eventually make their way into water.
Entering the Food Chain
Think about it, however small and harmless microbeads may seem to us, they are the perfect size for fish and animals on land to eat. Once eaten, they swell and clog up the stomach so that the fish/animal literally starves to death. What’s more, microbeads actually attract other pollutants such as pesticides which means that the fish are frequently eating even more harmful chemicals than the microbeads themselves. When we eat the fish that we catch from these infested waters, these pollutants are passed up the food chain to humans.
It’s important to know that microbeads are in no way essential. There are plenty of non-toxic and biodegradable cosmetic options on offer that can get you all the results that microbeads do. Remember that natural ingredients such as sugar and salt also make for excellent exfoliants.
Europe is lagging behind.
Whilst some US states have now officially banned microbead products, Europe is lagging behind. The Netherlands look like they will be the first European country to follow suit and put a ban in place, however the topic is definitely not discussed or spoken about here in the UK.
So, just as you wouldn’t or shouldn’t, leave your plastic rubbish on the beach, consider whether it’s time to ‘vote with your credit card’ and stop using products with microbeads which are going to be flushed down the sink. Beat The Microbead is an organisation that has been set up to tackle this harmful yet widely unheard of environmental problem. You can find out more about the organisation and the science behind the microbead here.