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Cosmetic and personal care products such as facial exfoliators, body scrubs and toothpaste have become an ubiquitous part of daily life. But what are we washing down the drain?
A recent trend amongst cosmetic producers has been to add plastic microbeads into a wide range of personal care products, and the same applies to domestic cleaning products.
These microbeads, often less than a millimetre in diameter, are washing straight down the drain and invariably enter the marine environment because they are too small to be filtered out during wastewater treatment processes. And once they reach the sea, they are impossible to clean up.
Microbeads are adding to the growing volume of microplastic pollution in the world’s oceans. Microplastics cause problems like blockages, malnutrition and even starvation for a range of marine fauna – from filter feeders, such as mussels, to fish and seabirds.
What’s more, because microplastics adsorb and concentrate toxic chemicals from seawater, there are also real concerns that these toxicants could be passed to marine fauna and passed up the food chain, ultimately posing health risks to humans.
For this reason, we are asking you to question what is going into the personal care products you buy and use.
Plastic waste has no place in the marine environment. By opting for products containing alternatives to plastic microbeads (such as oatmeal, sea salt, ground almond or walnut shell), you can help to stem the flow of microplastic pollution into the marine environment.
To make it easier for consumers to navigate the sea of products, Fauna & Flora International has created The Good Scrub Guide.
Featuring the most common facial exfoliators available on the UK market, the guide offers a clear, non-biased tool to help consumers choose products that do not contain plastic microbeads.
Importantly, through regular updates and correspondence with the brands featured on the list, The Good Scrub Guide will also indicate which brands are taking positive steps toward removing plastic microbeads from their products so that you, the consumer, can stay informed along the way.
To find out more, download The Good Scrub Guide (PDF).
This guide is still in its early stages, so if your favourite product or brand is not listed, please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org your suggestion and we will look into it.
In the meantime, you can also check the ingredients list: Polyethylene is the main type of plastic microbead used in exfoliators, so if your product includes this, it is highly likely that these beads will be contributing to the growing problem of microplastic pollution.
Other plastic types to be aware of include oxidised polyethylene, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), poly methyl methacrylate (PMMA) and polypropylene.
Visit our marine plastic pollution page to learn more about why scientists are concerned about microplastic pollution.
These microbeads are washing straight down the drain and invariably enter the marine environment because their size makes them impossible to filter out. Once they reach the sea, they are impossible to clean up.