A ranking of the world’s 30 largest personal care companies, published today by Greenpeace, shows that big brands are failing to remove microplastics from their products. Campaigners say that the ranking shows that voluntary corporate commitments to end use of microbeads that pollute rivers and oceans are not working and governments must legislate to ban microbeads in consumer products.

“There’s no single bad player, the industry as a whole is failing to regulate the use of microplastics everyday products. Companies claim to have microbeads under control but this is simply not true. As a result of weak corporate commitments, trillions of microbeads from personal care products enter our oceans every day,” said Ms. Taehyun Park, Oceans campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia.

Microbeads are tiny plastic particles found in products from toothpaste to body cleansers. Too small to be filtered by most water treatment systems, the particles end up in rivers, oceans and the food chain, harming marine life and polluting the entire ecosystem.

They are part of a large and growing problem of plastic waste in oceans.

In the ranking, four companies stand out as doing better than their peers in cutting microbeads: Beiersdorf (Germany), Colgate-Palmolive (USA), L Brands (USA) and Henkel (Germany). However, Greenpeace says that none of the companies assessed got a full score sufficient to protect oceans from plastic pollution. US companies Revlon, Amway and Estee Lauder are the worst performers.

The ranking also reveals that the world’s five biggest personal care companies – Procter & Gamble, L’Oreal, Unilever, Colgate-Palmolive and Estee Lauder respectively – got very different scores.

“Voluntary regulation by the industry is clearly not good enough. Not only is the industry continuing to pollute the oceans but it also creates confusion for consumers who are exposed to a dizzying array of different promises from personal care companies,” said Park.

Regulation is in process in a number of countries around the world. The US ban microbeads from production of personal care products comes into effect from 2017. Governments of Taiwan, UK, Australia and Canada are working on microbead legislation. The EU is also considering a microbead ban.

You can check the products on your shelves by looking for: Polyethylene / Polythene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), Nylon or Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), which are all plastics.

Further Reading

The Microbeads Scorecard, Greenpeace.


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