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.”


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