There are nearly 3 trillion microbeads flushed down the drain every single year, polluting our lakes, rivers and oceans. Once these microbeads are in the sea, they are here to stay and are non-biodegradable.
And with 5.25 trillion pieces of other plastic debris floating around in the ocean (269,000 tons of which is currently found on the surface), our seas are no longer a safe place for marine life. It’s time to rethink plastics and truly wash our hands of microbeads. But how can we eliminate these dangerous plastic particles from our ocean waste?
Microbeads and the Dangers
Microbeads are man-made solid plastics measuring less than one millimeter in size, mostly made up of polyethylene or petrochemical plastics such as polypropylene and polystyrene. These tiny little beads are often found in many personal care products, including face washes, body washes, cleansers, exfoliators, toothpaste products and more.
The danger of these plastic beads is that they can become ingested by seabirds, whales, turtles and other marine life causing problems for their health. Not to mention, if you are a seafood fan, these plastics can very easily end up on your dinner plate and in your stomach.
Additionally, microbeads act as a sponge for pollutants such as industrial chemicals (and other things that can cause human cancer), making a single microbead up to a million times more toxic than the water around it!
Whilst a handful of countries have completely banned microbeads and the UK plans to follow with an end to all microbead usage by the end of 2017, there are still hundreds of products being manufactured all over the world with these plastic particles.
With so many beauty and personal care products still in circulation despite the advice and warnings from marine experts, how can you be sure that the products you are using are safe? A website called Beat The Microbead publishes up to date product lists to help you check and you can even download their handy Beat The Microbead App to ensure that you can shop with confidence on the go.
Get to Know Your Ingredients
The best way to wash your hands of the microbead is to educate yourself and your family on the ingredients to look out for when shopping for beauty products. Whilst there is no comprehensive list of all synthetic polymers that can be considered as a microplastic ingredient, there are resources out there that can help you out.
Currently, there is a list of 67 different ingredients, as published by a UNEP report (Plastic in Cosmetics) and a Belgian TAUW Report.
Poly (2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate)
Poly (2-hydroxypropyl methacrylate)
Polyacrylonitrile butadiene styrene
Polyalkyl stereate/vinyl acetate copolymers
Polycaprolactam (Nylon 6)
Polyethylene methylactylate copolymer
Polyethylene vinyl acetate
Polylaurolactam (Nylon 12 or Amide-12)
Polymethacrylated hyaluronic acid
Poly (n-Hexyl methacrylate)
Polypentaerythrityl terephthalatePolystearyl methacrylate
Polytrimethylsiloxysilicate (Silicone resin)
Ethylene vinyl alcohol copolymer