Are microbeads and microplastics in beauty products a threat to the oceans?

Ocean News

The ubiquitous use of tiny fragments of plastic in cosmetics seems to be a serious problem for the marine environment. Am I right, and what can be done about it?

It is true that microscopic particles of polyethylene now bob around the high seas. It’s also true that the origins of these microplastics are likely to be consumer products. Washing your face can be an act of pollution if you use a cleaner that contains zillions of plastic microbeads for exfoliation. Too small to be sifted out at sewage treatment plants, they end up in the ocean, where the plastic becomes a persistent pollutant. As sea temperatures are low, plastic does not biodegrade; it is also ingested by wildlife. How could they avoid it? In some seas plastic fragments are more plentiful than plankton.

So let’s dry our guilt-induced “mermaid tears” – as these polluting plastic particles are poetically known – and face this issue. Largely this involves staring down the behemoth cosmetics industry, which has developed something of a dependency on fragments of plastic – apparently even some companies that send out beautiful sustainable messages about other parts of their supply chain.

So why use such an ugly ingredient? …

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