Are you killing for Beauty?
Is your exfoliating face wash bad for the environment?
It is speculated that by the year 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. We can no longer turn a blind eye and believe that we can’t make a difference to environmental issues. A simple thing such as your choice of face wash could make a huge difference.
Microplastics are tiny plastic particles, usually smaller than 1 mm (0.039 in), which are included in a variety of products such as cosmetics, clothing, and industrial processes. They can be classified as primary microplastics, which are manufactured or secondary microplastics which are plastic fragments created from the breakdown of larger plastic fragments.
Plastics take many years to breakdown. The big problem, is that they end up in water sources, such as the ocean, where they are ingested and incorporated into the bodies of living organisms. You might be familiar with stories of dolphins being strangled by plastic bags, but the tiny pieces of plastics that are ingested cause much more harm.
Where do all the microplastics come from?
Quite a few cosmetics companies decided to replace natural exfoliating ingredients with microplastics. The plastic microbeads are often used in facial or body scrubs, hand soaps, deodorants, shampoos, sunscreen, baby care products, shower gels and even toothpaste. While you are obliviously cleaning your face or body, the microbeads are being washed down the drain and into the sewage system. Because the particles are so small, the initial treatment screens at wastewater plants can’t sift them out. Eventually they enter into rivers and later on oceans.
For the last 50 years microplastics have been used in cosmetics. According to a recent United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report, over 299 million tons of plastic was produced worldwide in 2013. Environmental damage to marine ecosystems amount to approximately $13 billion per year.
If you would like to read the complete UNEP report, you can download it here.
A survey by Cosmetics Europe discovered that 4 360 tons of microplastic beads were used in 2012 across Europe, including countries such as Norway and Switzerland. A popular plastic product called polyethylene made up 93% of the total amount.
Is someone doing something about this problem?
The Clear Clinical line of the top dermatologist formulated Polishing Gel Cleanser recently wrote: “When we became aware that microbeads were harmful to the natural environment and wildlife we immediately sourced an alternative that is proven to be safe. As such, we have now reformulated our product.” This is a great example of a respected influencer in this industry, making decisions with commendable priorities.
The first-ever United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) was hosted in June, 2014. Representatives from more than 150 countries gathered to address this problem. They discussed the growing concern over the impact of harmful plastic materials on the marine environment. It was concluded that a serious reevaluation has to be done by all companies using plastic materials in their products.
How do we make a difference?
If we want to change the ever-growing issue of marine litter, various companies will have to start partnering and major stakeholders need to be made aware of how serious this issue is. Government also needs to become more involved and effective legislation plus waste management infrastructures need to be put into place.
A young man called Boyan Slat, from the Netherlands, created an innovative system to deal with the massive problem of plastic waste in the ocean. People told him to forget about solving the problem, it can’t be done, but he is very passionate about cleaning the ocean and he proved the skeptics wrong by successfully implementing his concept. The system uses the natural ebb and flow of the ocean to capture floating debris. Although his system is more focused on big pieces of plastic, it’s this kind of out of the box thinking that will make a difference in the end. Find out more about his project.
We can’t keep pretending we don’t know any better
In America, The Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 was signed by the President on December the 28th, 2015. It will be put into effect from July the 1st, 2017 pertaining to plastic manufacturing in various industries.
The UNEP report suggests a phase-out strategy and an ultimate ban of the use of microplastics in personal care products and other cosmetics in general. Quite a few US states and European countries are in the process of introducing legislation to prohibit the use or complete phase-out of microplastics, especially in the cosmetic industry.
If you would like to actively become involved in making a difference, join the Beat the Microbead campaign now. The campaign has been running since 2012. At the moment 85 NGO’s from over 36 countries worldwide are supporting this dynamic campaign. Up to date 415 brands from 98 different manufacturers have promised to start the process of permanently removing plastic microbeads from their products. Their website has a list of cosmetic brands currently 100% free of microplastics. There are natural biodegradable alternatives available, more companies need to be made aware of this.
There are various environmental groups that are fighting to make cosmetic companies, as well as the consumers, more aware of the dangers and negative impact of microplastics on the environment. It is our duty to look after the environment, and if something seemingly so simple as a change of face wash brand could make such a big difference, it is worth investigating alternative product options to save our oceans.
This article was provided by Andries, from manomics.com. Manomics is a men’s lifestyle blog that focuses on men’s grooming, fitness and health.