What are these and why the big fuss? Micro plastics are what is left of the billions of tons of plastics after they have broken down. They are very small pieces of plastic that pollute our planet, they are all kinds of plastics that are less then 5mm long. These microplastics are the predominant marine debris found in our oceans and Great Lakes, they are not just the degraded particles of larger plastics but include microbeads. Did you know that these microbeads are tiny pieces of polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene that are solid plastic particles of less then 1mm dimensions? Did you also know that these are intentionally manufactured and are often used as exfoliants to be added to personal care products, such as health and beauty products?
Microbeads are not a recent advent but have been around for about the past 50 years, these manufactured plastics have been increasingly replacing natural ingredients in our personal care products, with little knowledge on the part of the consumer. Because of their size they pass unchanged through waterways into the oceans and are very commonly mistaken for food by our marine and aquatic animals. In 2015 President Obama banned the use of microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products in America. Meanwhile in Australia there was a ”voluntary phase out” announced, but with no clear legislation, companies are not bound by law to have to discontinue use. Scientists and environmentalists have discovered large amounts of microbeads in Australian waterways, and found that in 100 particles collected from Sydney Harbour, 60 were microplastics.
I guess you would like to know some of the products that may contain these microbeads, they are most commonly found in face scrubs, body washes and toothpastes, pretty scary isn’t it? Luckily for us our four main supermarket chains, Coles, Woolworths Aldi and IGA are committed to banning the use of these microbeads in there home brands, however, they have no control over the ingredients in there other stocked personal care products. So, chances are, if you are using some of the world’s biggest brands you are filling our waterways with these microplastics. It is the responsibility of the personal care industry to step up to the mark and stop the use of these microbeads, and if you would like to see a list of the companies that have “committed“ to phasing them out you can visit https://www.beatthemicrobead.org
In a recent scientific expedition to drill the seabed in the Great Australian Bight, samples of the sea bed were taken from this remote area, far from any large towns or cities, to a 3km depth and the results are shocking. The amount of microplastics that were contained in the samples tell a horrifying tale that spells out the level of pollution within our oceans. CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, has provided the first ever global estimate for microplastics on the seafloor, with results suggesting there are 14 million tonnes in the deep ocean, this is more than double what is estimated to be on the oceans surface. If you would like to read the complete article or more information on the CSIRO report then please go to the links listed below.
Ultimately it is up to us, the consumer to be vigilant and make the changes, we can not wait or rely on governments to make legislation or big companies to stop using plastics. By choosing products that do not rely on plastics, whether it be ingredients or packaging we have the power of numbers to force these changes on them. You need to make wiser choices and step outside of the comfort and ease of purchasing and endorsing these products and companies. Our Earth, our Planet does not belong to us, but to the many generations to come and we need to open our eyes to the reality and danger of plastic to its and our continual existence as we know it now.
“YOU MUST BE THE CHANGE YOU WISH TO SEE IN THE WORLD”
These images are taken from the CSIRO website, link found above.