Many years now, research has shown beauty products made with these tiny micro beads, gritty cleansers that scrub off dead skin cells, have been damaging our water supplies, marine life and the ecological balance of our planet, but why?
An international campaign to ban these plastic beads, reports that marine species are unable to distinquish these microbeads from their food supply. Over 663 different species were negatively impacted by marine debris with approxamitely 11% of reported cases specifically related to the ingestion of microplastics.
Making matters worse, microbeads can act like tiny sponges, absorbing dangerous chemicals, pesticides and a lot of other nasty waste products that frequently pollute our oceans. As marinelife ingest micrbeads, they too also consume poisons.
The obvious solution to the micobead problem is to cut it off ― at the source, but whilst the major cosmetic companies have pledged to phase out the use of microbeads in favour of natural alternative's, they also say that the shift could take several years, and more research is to be carried out in the meantime.
Most of the plastic pollution swirling in the ocean's five major oceanic trash vortexes has stayed out of the collective consciousness, leaving the public with an "out of sight, out of mind" feeling of safety, as micrbeads rinse down drains and into lakes, oceans and rivers, it is making it much harder for people to ignore the threat of plastic pollution. This is becoming a particularly pressing in Lake Erie, which acts as a bottle neck for all the great lakes.
The run off from sewage treatment centers that are unable to contain the tiny beads before they empty into the Saint Lawrence Seaway.
An independent organisation, 5Gyres has an aim of reducing plastic ocean pollution worldwide, recently found a large number of micro plastics in the great lakes mentioned. They estimate that one single care product may well contain up to 360,000 microbeads in a single package. Imagine the implications on our sealife, and in turn ourself who depend on this food supply.
Working with big business isn't the only way 5 Gyres is working to create change and awareness. The non-profit has also shifted some of the responsibility to consumers with a recently released platform called "Beat The Microbead".
This micro site, and app, both of which were developed by the organisation, allow consumers to scan the barcode of personal care products to determine whether they contain plastic microbeads and whether the manufacturer has agreed to remove them or not. Very handy indeed for the eco consumer.
There are other tools too, to educated consumers who wish to environmentally navigate the sea of microbead infused products. In addition to the "Beat the Microbead" app, Fauna & Flora International have created the "Good Scrub Guide", a listing of face scrubs that are free from plastic microbeads and that are currently available on the UK market today.
Tanya Cox, project officer of marine plastics for Fauna & Flora International says she is hoping to increase the scope and user friendliness of the guide in the future and to make it available for more countries where FFI works.
Brands wishing to feature their products on the guide must first confirm with Cox that the product is free from solid, plastic microbeads made from polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethyl-terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and nylon.
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