Over the last decade we’ve become increasingly interested and savvy about everything from cruelty free makeup, to organic skincare and adopting a vegan lifestyle – but one of the issues that’s been somewhat under the radar, despite its huge significance, has been microbeads in cosmetics. Research has shown that beauty products made with these tiny microbeads (used to scrub off dead skin cells, release an active ingredient or simply used for aesthetic reasons) have been damaging water supplies, marine life and the ecological balance of the planet. You may have spotted them in your shower gel, toothpaste, cleanser or body scrub and wash them away without a second thought – but the truth is they’re incredibly damaging and have been high on the agenda of environmental campaigners for many years.
When we wash away these tiny beads and they enter the water supply, it’s impossible to filter them out using current sewage systems; it’s believed that marine life is unable to distinguish between food and microbeads, so they’re gobbling them up and suffering the consequences. These non-biodegradable microbeads are also acting as a magnet for other dangerous pollutants that threaten the health of fish, birds and other wildlife; they can act like tiny sponges, absorbing several other dangerous chemicals (including pesticides and flame retardants,) becoming pure poison in the process. Not only is this having a huge negative impact on our seas and the fish that live in these environments, but as fish are a fundamental part of the human food chain, the damaging microbeads could also potentially end up on our plates. Yuk.
The good news, however, is that as of last week the government has introduced new legislation that means plastic microbeads can no longer be used in rinse-off cosmetics within the UK – with a ban on sales and existing products being removed from shelves following this July. So from hereon in companies can no longer produce products that contain microbeads, so their lab technicians need to get their creative hats on and start reformulating! Companies including Neal’s Yard have been campaigning for this moment for years, while a joint petition by Fauna & Flora International, Greenpeace UK, Environmental Investigation Agency and Marine Conservation Society finished with over 350,000 signatures – illustrating the consumer passion for this cause.
It’s great to see the beauty industry being held accountable for the impact it has environmentally (next stop excessive packaging eh?) and I’m super glad this ban has finally come into place; it’s a no-brainer really, when the beads aren’t even necessary thanks to tonnes of great alternatives. For you as a consumer it simply means you may not be able to get hold of your favourite product for a while, or that it’s being reformulated to remove these damaging tiny beads… So in the meantime it’s an opportunity to shop about or find more environmentally friendly alternatives.
However, it’s estimated that eight million tons of plastic are still being swept into our seas and oceans every single year – so good deeds don’t stop with your morning shower. It’s incredibly important to re-use your carrier bags, re-fill your plastic bottles and opt for a re-useable coffee cup whenever you can; little changes build up to make a huge difference – both in our pockets and for the greater good of the planet. It’s also worth noting that this ban doesn’t include ‘microplastics’
that are used in cosmetics including mascaras, eyeshadows, foundations
and lipglosses; they’re incredibly tiny particles that can’t be seen by
the human eye, but they’re nonetheless and are still being washed away
and end up in the ocean. Now we’ve got this microbeads ban in place, I’ve no doubt we’ll start to see more on this issue in the future and brands being encouraged to remove them from their formulas.
Let’s see how much positive change we can make in 2018 and beyond…
(Vix has got a great post HERE if you want to know how to make a difference, even if you’re a bit useless!)
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