At some point in your life, you may have washed your face, cleaned your teeth or scrubbed your body with a product which contained polluting plastic. This kind of plastic is more commonly known as microbeads, and when they are finished scrubbing away your skin, they are then flushed down into the sewer system to wreak havoc on our environment and wildlife.
At Naturisimo, we are pleased to say that we do not condone the use of microplastics in any of our cosmetics and they all contain natural and safer alternatives. So we recommend using absolutely any exfoliant on our website, but we would like to make you aware of what is out there and what environmental damages can be caused by some beauty products.
What are microbeads?
Microbeads are minuscule balls of plastic, usually made from polyethene, which is found in things such as face and body scrubs, toothpaste and household cleaning products. Over the years plastic microbeads were created to replace biodegradable alternatives such as ground up nut shells, sugar and salt crystals, which are much safer, as prolong the shelf life of a product and the sad truth is, it is simply far more convenient for manufacturers to use plastic alternatives.
How do they cause harm to the environment and wildlife?
Microbeads are tiny, when they are washed down our drains they get past the filter and sewage systems, and they flow right on into our oceans and waterways, contributing to the already huge plastic problem which is contaminating our oceans. Microbeads are a particular nuisance as once they are in the water systems; they are impossible to remove again.
According to Green Peace, 663 species of marine wildlife are affected by plastic pollution through ingestion or entanglement. The minuscule beads end up in the stomachs of animals such as fish, birds, whales, turtles and other marine life who mistake the small beads for food. This can cause blockages in their guts, alter their feeding behaviour resulting in a negative impact on their growth and reproduction.
This unsurprisingly has an enormous impact on the food chain. The smaller fish which ingest the toxic plastics are then eaten by larger animals such as bigger fish, birds or mammals, and then the toxins continue to travel through the food chain until they reach humans at the top. It’s a vicious circle.
What is happening to stop it?
The problems caused by his plastic pollution has become so large; it has become impossible to ignore. Towards the end of 2015, the USA passed a ban on their use and were shortly followed by the Canadian government, who have also banned the use of plastic beads in cosmetics.
In June 2016, the UK government finally declared they would fully support a proposed legal ban on polluting plastic after Prime Minister David Cameron was presented with a petition signed by more than 300,000 people, which was started by Green Peace. As it currently stands, if the European Union do not approve the ban, then the UK could introduce a national ban on the use of microbeads in manufacturing. However, due to EU set trade laws, the UK would not be able to ban the sale of microbeads. However, there is widespread support from other EU countries to support the ban.
Other options are being explored, such as a voluntary phase out in the EU by 2020. However, the issue has become too pressing to be self-regulated by the industry itself. This idea has come under attack from MPs and campaigners suggesting there are too many loopholes in this approach – so we do hope this is not something which is considered a serious option.
What happens next?
In the UK, it has been reported that a possible ban on the use of microbeads in cosmetics could be passed as early as 2017. There will inevitably be a phase out period where products containing the plastics beads can still be manufactured and sold for up to around 18 months after the law has passed.
The current discussion is focused on cosmetics, and the use of plastic beads in other items such as washing powders is yet to be addressed. So although this latest move from the UK government is a step in the right direction regarding cosmetics, we are still not close to eradicating the problem altogether – but it is a start!
What can you do to help?
The easiest way you can help is to stop contributing to the problem and avoid buying products which contain plastic microbeads. There are so many other safer and healthier alternatives available out there without pollutant plastic included in their formula. Here is a small selection of the natural, bio-degradable ingredients which are available:
Refined walnut powder: Jason Brightening Apricot Scrubble
Almond Meal: Kimberly Sayer Gentle Almond & Lavender Face Scrub
Jojoba Beads: Pai Kukui and Jojoba Bead Skin Brightening Exfoliator
Sugar cane crystals: Green People Sugar Scrub
What do you think about the ongoing situation? Let us know on Twitter @Naturisimo_UK