Tag Archives: plastic

Tell us about plastics in luxury body care

After success in convincing many retailers to remove microplastics from their washes, lotions, scrubs, creams, gels, moisturisers and pastes, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is now turning its attention to luxury personal care goods. They want you to check the labels on products on your shelves and upload photos of any offenders to their Scrub it out! web page.

Microplastics are tiny bits of plastic. These end up in the sea where they gather toxins on their surface before being ingested by zooplankton and other animals, which in turn are eaten by creatures further up the food chain – and ultimately, us.

Look out for these plastic ingredients: Polyethylene / Polythene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), Nylon or Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). The MCS definition of luxury does not seem to be that expensive, just anything which isn’t a shop’s own brand.

Dr Laura Foster, Pollution Programme Manager at MCS, says the fact that over the last twelve months most retailers have been happy to have the conversation about the problems with microplastics is very encouraging: “A year ago, on World Oceans Day, we formed the Marine Litter Action Network which brought together other NGOs, industry and retailers to look at the issues of litter in our seas and oceans and come up with workable solutions. One of the critical discussions was about microplastics.”

Dr Foster says the ‘Scrub it Out!’ campaign, a joint initiative with Fauna & Flora International (FFI), was a direct result of the Network: “Thousands of members of the public have pledged to ditch products which contain microplastics, whilst we decided to focus on UK retailers to give a date when all their own-brand products would be plastic free.”

Among the retailers who have pledged to get rid of plastics from their own brand personal care products are Waitrose, Boots, Asda, Marks & Spencer, Superdrug, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Cooperative, Lush, Morrisons, and L’Occitane.

Discussions are still underway with Aldi and Lidl but MCS hopes they too will set a date for plastic free own-brand products.

Plastic free skin care is a reality. Some brands have never used microplastics, including Ali Mac Skincare, ALL NATURAL SOAP Co., ARK Skincare, all brands of Botanical Brands, Bulldog Skincare For Men, Elements Natural Skincare For Men, Green People, Neal’s Yard Remedies, Palmer’s, PHB Ethical Beauty, Sodashi, Sukin and Trilogy.

MCS says the Scrub it Out! Campaign will now move on to luxury personal care products: “It’s possible that consumers assume the more expensive the product the better is for you, and the more natural the ingredients it contains. But we don’t believe this is always the case. A supporter of MCS contacted Olay regarding the polyethylene listed in a face wash she uses and was told that as polyethylene is commonly used they won’t be phasing it out until alternatives are identified and qualified. We’ll be contacting the company to explain why a delay is detrimental to the ocean.”

Australians urged to petition for National Plastic Bottle Deposit Scheme

Every year 7 billion drinks containers are littered or landfilled in Australia. Campaign group “Kicking the Can” are asking Australians to sign a petition urging the government to set up a national container deposit system. They say that “Introducing container deposit legislation [CDL] (a 10 cent refund like they’ve had in South Australia since 1977) is the most important step Australia can take to restrict plastic pollution entering our oceans, killing wildlife and poisoning the marine environment that we all rely on.”

Plastic is made to last, so it decays only very slowly in the oceans, breaking down into ever smaller fragments. These tiny fragments are known as micro-plastic. Micro-plastics attract toxins onto their surfaces, and are eaten by plankton who mistake them for fish eggs. From plankton they pass up the food chain and back to us.

Filter feeders like mussels accumulate the plastic as they filter the water. This concentrates the plastic and effectively turns some of those molluscs into hermaphrodites. The very small plastic particles can mimic certain things like oestrogen.

Kicking the Can predict that a National container deposit scheme will solve the massive problem of beverage container litter, drastically increase recycling, provide jobs, cut costs to Council waste collection and provide fundraising opportunities for schools and community groups.

Australians can send a letter to a state minister imploring the Australian government to implement a National Container Deposit System at http://kickingthecan.org.au/take-action/.

Further Reading
Kicking the Can for Australia
What are long term threats of plastic in our seas?, BBC

Lush Latest Company to Phase Out Harmful Plastic Granules

Many, if not most, cosmetic companies are posing an unnecessary threat to the oceans with the tiny plastic micro-granules they add to their products as exfoliants or even just as glitter.

The plastic granules end up washed out to sea where they gather toxins on their surface before being eaten by plankton who mistake them for fish eggs. From plankton they pass up the food chain and back to us.

Three out of four scrubs and peelings contain micro plastics. Shampoos, soap, toothpaste, eyeliners, lip gloss, deodorant and sunblock sticks may also do so. Environmental organisations like the Marine Conservation Society are asking you to boycott products containing plastic ingredients.

There is light on the horizon though. Companies are beginning to take notice. Earlier this month giant manufacturer Unilever agreed to “phase out plastic microbeads as a ‘scrub’ material in all of their personal care products globally by 2015.”

Now Lush, who pride themselves on fresh, handmade, vegetarian cosmetics using “little or no preservative or packaging” have announced that they too will stop using micro plastics in their glitter. The company says “With new agar based glitters and other biodegradable options now coming onto the market we are happy to announce that Lush will be able to eliminate the last plastic glitter in our products in the immediate future”. I suspect many Lush users would be surprised to learn that a company that trumpets its environmental credentials, and its commitment to reducing packaging, used totally unnecessary and damaging micro-plastics in its products in the first place.

Further reading:
Lush hasn’t lost its sparkle
Microplastics in personal care products

SCUBA Travel’s Book of the Year: Ocean of Life, How Our Seas are Changing

Ocean of Life

Did you know that almost all hand creams contains plastic granules, added as an exfoliant? These granules end up washed out to sea. Here they gather toxins on their surface before being eaten by plankton who mistake them for fish eggs. From plankton they pass up the food chain and back to us. Just one of alarming ways in which we are needlessly damaging the oceans

In his book “Ocean of Life“, Professor Callum Roberts details threats posed by the cosmetic industry, fishing, noise, rising sea-levels, global warming, acidification, fish farming and so on. Towards the end of the book, just when you’re beginning to think the state of the seas is hopeless, he provides a series of simple solutions to reverse the damage and protect the oceans.

The book includes 58 photos. The first three graphically emphasise the massive reduction of fish size over the past 50 years. they show a recreational fish catch in Key West, Florida in the 1950s, 70s and 2007. From many fish as big as the fisherman in the 1950s, to still lots of fish but considerably smaller in the 70s to much fewer and even smaller fish in the present day. The book makes the point that corporate greed is destroying fishermens’ livelihood and fishing industry representatives are in denial. Amazingly, in 1889 fishermen caught more than twice as many bottom fish (cod, haddock, plaice and the like) as today. For every hour spent fishing today – with all our electronic gadgets to find the fish – fishermen land just 6% of what they did 120 years ago!

Roberts suggests remedies ranging from the global – such as the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants which has been signed by most of the world’s nations – to local – such as beach clean-ups by volunteers to remove the plastic before it gets into the sea. Placing areas off-limits has proven time and again to be a powerful tool: we need interconnected safe havens. Luckily, more and more nations are now creating marine proteced areas.

I highly recommend this book. In fact, I think it should be required reading for every politician. The points are made with stories and anecdotes in an extremely clear way. The science is there to back the stories up, but no scientific knowledge is required to understand the points being made. Callum Roberts succeeds in presenting his case in a way that is open to everyone. One of the best books of this year. Buy it. You will find it both fascinating and shocking.

About the Author:

Callum Roberts is professor of marine conservation at the University of York. He has been a visiting Professor at Harvard and was consultant to the BBC’s Blue Planet.

Ocean of Life is available from £16 (Hardback) and £14.99 (Kindle).

More book reviews are on the SCUBA Travel site.