With all the reversals and rollbacks on environmental regulations of late, it is good to see that the ban on plastic microbeads is to go into effect as scheduled in the Microbead-Free Waters Act, which was passed December 18, 2015. If you’re wondering what microbeads are, they are tiny plastic particles that are 1mm or less in diameter. They are added to products to add scrubbing power. The ban in the Micro-Free Waters Act covers the use of plastic microbeads in rinse-off body products. So, we’re talking things like body scrubs, face cleanser, soap, and toothpaste. Some of the beads are large enough to easily see with the naked eye, but others are a little smaller, and dispersed in opaque products, making them less obvious. Plastic microbeads were first introduced to consumers in 1972, and are now found in over 100 body care products made, distributed, and sold by companies across our country.
The Microbead-Free Waters Act is being implemented in three stages: the first stage went into effect on July 1, 2017. The second stage goes into effect July 1, 2018. The final stage is to be implemented July 1, 2019. So in essence, after July 1, 2019, the manufacture, distribution, and sale of all microbead containing medicated and non-medicated rinse-off body products will be in effect in the United States.
Some companies are being proactive and replacing microbeads in their formulas with natural alternatives, or scrapping products altogether.
And the United States is not the only country to see the disturbing effects of plastic microbeads, and made subsequent moves to ban them. As you can see from the map, while a handful of countries have made moves to ban them, we still have a long way to go in eliminating microbeads.
Some of you are probably wondering why we should ban plastic microbeads at all. They look cool, feel neat, exfoliate our skin, and scrub our teeth. The reason is that most sewage plants are not designed to remove all the microplastics and microbeads from our wastewater, so they are most often released into our waters.
Increasing numbers of fish and other aquatic organisms are adversely affected by ingesting plastic microbeads. Microbeads look like plankton, algae, krill, and/or fish eggs to other fish, and so they eat them. With their digestive tracts full of plastics, it leaves little room for nutritious food.
The fish that don’t die may well end up on your plate. Some of you might think “so, it’s just a little plastic; it’ll pass through, it won’t affect me.’ But microbeads are a route for toxins to come into the bodies of animals, because many toxins absorb onto their surfaces.
Each plastic microbead seems small and inconsequential, but just a few accumulating in our waterways can begin to have detrimental consequences. So, remember the next time you walk by a bottle with colorful plastic microbeads, and you think “Oo! How pretty. Gotta buy it!” that the fish and other aquatic life that will later see those same beads will think “Oh! Yummy! Gotta eat it!”, which will displace nutritious foods, causing the animal to possibly starve. ‘It,’ which will have picked up toxins as the bead makes its way through our stormwater and sewage systems before being discharged in our waterways.
In the meantime, look for products that are microplastic/plastic microbead free. Below is a link listing microplastic as they appear on ingredient lists. Try to avoid products with any of these ingredients. Instead, look for products that have natural exfoliants. Look for Finely ground oats, rose hips, walnut shells, ground coffee, pumice, sugar, or even salt. These can all be used as exfoliates. Jojoba beads, which are made from jojoba oil, are a natural product made from jojoba oil, and they begin to breakdown as soon as you start to use them. They look like plastic microbeads, but are a safe option for you and the environment.
At More Bees, we use only natural exfoliates in our soaps and sugar scrubs. From the oats, spices, and other plant matter we add to our soaps, to the sugar we use in our scrubs, you never have to worry about plastic microbeads in More Bees products. We want to bring our customers the quality they love with the oath to being healthy for you and the planet.