The problem with Microbeads

What exactly are microbeads?

Microbeads are the small hard pieces of plastic that you will often find in cosmetics and personal care items such as shower gels, face washes, and toothpaste. They are used by manufacturers because they are easy to mass produce with consistent size, shape, and hardness, they are supposed to gently remove the hard and dry surface of your skin like an exfoliator, therefore many different brands have been using these micro beads as a selling point.

C’est pas grave, right?

The issue, however, is that these microbeads, a type of ‘microplastic’, go down your drains during your shower, into the water treatment plant and completely bypass the filtration systems because of how tiny they are and end up being pumped straight into the ocean. The number of microbeads in our oceans outnumber the amount stars in our galaxy by about 500 times, that’s 51 trillion microplastic particles floating around in our seas. Plastic pollution, especially microplastic pollution, because it cannot be filtered out of the ocean properly, is a huge problem that environmentalists are currently facing. Larger pieces of plastic that make their way into the oceans such as plastic bags, bottles and netting are generally easier to deal with as they wash up onto the beaches of different countries and get taken away by volunteers. Such things cannot be done with microbeads. Part of the issue is that way that the microbeads move up the food-chain. The plankton eat the beads, the fish eat the plankton (and also the beads because they are unable to distinguish these plastics from the foods that they normally consume) then we as humans take the fish out of the oceans and into our homes and restaurants and continue to eat them, thus ingesting the harmful chemicals that are involved in the plastic-making process. Chemicals such as plasticisers and flame retardants leak out of the beads during their time in the ocean, therefore polluting the ocean before they are even eaten by the unsuspecting fish, and subsequentially by us humans.

Part of the issue is that way that the microbeads move up the food-chain. The plankton eat the beads, the fish eat the plankton (and also the beads because they are unable to distinguish these plastics from the foods that they normally consume) then we as humans take the fish out of the oceans and into our homes and restaurants and continue to eat them, thus ingesting the harmful chemicals that are involved in the plastic-making process. Chemicals such as plasticisers and flame retardants leak out of the beads during their time in the ocean, therefore polluting the ocean before they are even eaten by the unsuspecting fish, and subsequentially by us humans.

There are things you can do to help, however!

Stop buying all things that include microbeads, the manufacturer might not actually disclose on the packaging the word ‘microbead’ but I just generally assume that everything that looks like a bead, is a bead, and don’t buy it. Instead, opt for natural exfoliants such as salts, these will do a better job and belong in the sea anyway.

Today is #WorldOceansDay so hashtag on Twitter and Instagram to spread the work, also join the campaign to a cleaner ocean free from all kinds of plastics at https://cleanseas.org/ To help find out if any of the products you’re using or thinking of buying include microbeads, download the barcode scanning app ‘Beat the Microbead’ from the app store! 

microbeads

One thought on “The problem with Microbeads

  1. Pingback: A life without plastic, do it for the whales – La Vie Biologique

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