Climate Action

Little Beads Lead to a Big Problem

When you look at your bathroom counter, how many of your skincare products contain microbeads? More likely than not, at least one product does.  Microbeads are the newest trend filling bottles of cleansers and soaps.  Microbeads are primarily used as a skin exfoliant, and who doesn’t like soft skin?   Skincare products are filled with them, but the real problem is that our oceans are filled with them too. Microbeads are essentially tiny plastic beads and most products containing microbeads will be clearly labeled to clearly label the product as an exfoliant (also listed as polypropylene or polyethylene).  Even though these plastic beads are tiny, they create a huge environmental problem.  These beads are so small that they pass through wastewater treatment plants and go straight into the nearest body of water.  Then the microbeads are consumed by fish because they resemble fish eggs.  However, the biggest issue is that the plastic picks up any toxins that it comes into contact with.  Essentially what is happening is that the fish in our ecosystem are eating plastics filled with toxins as a result of the skincare products that we choose to buy. However, just because microbeads are not good for the environment that does not mean that we cannot buy exfoliating products.  Lush, an organization focused on selling handmade bath products with fresh and honest ingredients, has come out with their own informative campaign cleverly entitled “You won’t miss a bead.”  The organization has demonstrated the negative effects of microbeads and provided examples of environmentally friendly exfoliants such as sugar, ground almonds, and sand.  The organization uses these natural exfoliants in their own products and they also advocate for consumers to avoid plastic based exfoliants.  They also encourage consumers to sign the Ban the Bead petition created by 5gyres, a nonprofit organization that works towards eliminating all plastics from the ocean. But they are not the only organization you can turn to. Many others use purely natural ingredients to get that smooth feeling you want! Each one of us can help to reduce the amount of plastics that end up in the ocean. Think about the products you buy and the negative impacts it has on the health of creatures around the world— because eventually it will circle back to you.   Maurita Obermiller, Intern