Some eighteen months ago, we wrote about how microbeads
(used in so many everyday products) were finding their way into our waterways, our lakes and ultimately our oceans and posing an ever increasing threat to the environment.
Now the mainstream media has got a hold of the story of these seemingly innocent tiny beads of plastic - and that is a good thing because it helps to raise awareness in the general public who often need extra publicity, around many of the current threats to the environment, before they too take them on board.
What are microbeads?
They are tiny and they are made of plastic.
They are used in toothpaste, shampoos, exfoliating scrubs and washing powder - anything in fact where an abrasive gritty action is required to get a surface area cleaner. It may be your teeth, your hair, your skin or your laundry.
They can therefore be found in abrasive cleaning products; anti-aging creams; exfoliating creams; facial cleansers; hand soaps; over the counter medications (where they are sometimes used as a lubricant to make the drugs easier to swallow); peeling products; shower gels; sunscreens; and toothpaste.
As you can see, there is a long, long list.
What harm do they cause?
Trillions of these tiny plastic particles have already made their way into the oceans and seas because being so small, they often evade water filtration systems. They are made from polyethylene so have an indefinite life span. Their microscopic size makes them easily consumed by all types of marine life with the potential to then become part of our own food chain. Adding to the danger is the fact that they have absorbent surfaces which in turn can attract toxic or undesirable chemicals.
The good news
Microbeads are now being outlawed in the USA and Canada with several countries in Europe pressing for a complete ban.
But to be effective, there needs to be a worldwide awareness and some tough legislation to make it happen everywhere at an international level and as soon as possible.
What natural products can be used instead?
- Apricot seeds which are biodegradable.
- Baking soda which is naturally soft and comes in a fine powder form.
- Bamboo which can be ground to a powder or chopped but is brittle enough to keep its shape.
- Coffee grounds which are round, smooth and with enough strength to do the job. These are readily available.
- Jojoba beads which can easily be mistaken for microbeads but of course are 100% biodegradable and also renewable.
- Pecan shells can be rounded to add texture and provide robust exfoliators.
- Salts and sugars are coarse enough to replace the larger type of microbeads.
- Rice is an environmentally friendly alternative.
- Whole oats can be finely ground or left coarse and...
You can contribute to the cause by checking the products you use and ensuring that they are wherever possible, 100% natural and biodegradable. A good example is our own range of Simply face products.
- Walnut shells are ideal for removing more stubborn dirt and dead skin as they are harder than most of the above alternatives. They are round and smooth when ground.
Ocean image by Bryan Chitty for amoils.com