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Eco / Health and wellbeing | 18.09.2015

Microbeads in cosmetics: tiny little troublemakers

microbeads-cause-environmental-damage

Microbeads are tiny little plastic beads less than 1mm in size causing very big problems for our waterways.

Made of polyethylene, polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate, they are are added to facial scrubs, cleansers, exfoliants, toothpastes and soaps by cosmetics companies to act as a scrub.

There are various natural alternatives available, but microbeads are by far the cheapest option for cosmetics companies, hence their alarming proliferation.

According to Greenpeace, one prominent skin care company’s cleanser contains more than 350,000 microbeads in one bottle.

That’s just one bottle, from one company. If you do the math, it’s not difficult to see how microbeads, which are not biodegradable, have quickly become a menace.

Scientists studying the accumulation of microbeads in Sydney Harbour have found 60-100 particles of plastic micro debris in 100 millilitres of sediment – among the highest levels recorded in the world.

The beads are so small they pass through water treatment plants and into waterways, where worms and fish mistake them for food. This is bad news for the organism that eats it, but also for every other organism in the food chain, including the larger aquatic predators.

It’s also likely that microbeads in cosmetics work their way up the food chain to humans. So if you eat fish, there’s a good chance you’re eating plastic. 

BUT WAIT: THERE'S GOOD NEWS ABOUT MICROBEADS IN COSMETICS...

Governments around the world are starting to take action to ban microbeads from cosmetics and personal care products, with a number of US states already in the process of banning them.

NSW Environment Minister Rob Stokes has called for products with microbeads to be banned from Australian shelves by 2016. At the launch of a report into the health of Sydney Harbour in November 2014, he announced that the government would convene an industry working group to phase out the use of microbeads.

NSW and South Australia are leading the charge.

Many major skin care and cosmetics companies are also pledging to phase them out of their products by 2016, which is fantastic.

The next step is to have national legislation put in place that bans cheap overseas products containing microbeads from being imported into Australia.

We've never used microbeads in any of our products and have found biodegradable, spherical jojoba waxy esters and beads that melt into the skin, to be a gentle exfoliating alternative.

What you can do:

If you are looking for an alternative, our new 2-in-1 exfoliator is due for release on the 1st of October and is now available to pre-order online. 

 

@bymukti

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