They’re so little, they’ve probably never crossed your mind as something to be concerned about. They definitely didn’t cross mine. But those tiny little plastic micro beads that you find in toiletries like your body scrub, exfoliators, and even lip balm and toothpastes, are actually wreaking havoc on our sea life, and consequently on our health.
Some micro beads are so tiny that you can’t detect them with the naked eye. Once they wash down your drain, they generally make their way to the oceans, as our waste water treatment systems are not designed to extract these minuscule bits of plastic. There they contribute to what is known as the ‘plastic soup’ our ocean is becoming. Marine life eat and breathe-in this plastic through their gills, and it accumulates in their bodies over time, reaching increasingly high levels (an effect known as bioaccumulation). Ultimately this plastic can end up on our plates, and then in our bodies.
Needless to say, consuming plastic is not good for our health (or the health of sea life). Plastics don’t often decay, and are a source of toxins – especially endocrine (hormonal) disruptors.
The challenge here is that once these tiny little beads are in the sea, it is near impossible to get them out. So what can you do? Simply put: don’t buy products containing micro beads. Or campaign your favourite brands to remove plastics from their ingredients lists if this is the case. Beat the micro bead is a campaign aimed at raising awareness about this issue, and urging positive action to stop our oceans becoming more plastic. They have also created a ‘zero plastic inside’ sticker, that manufacturers are being encouraged to put on their packaging (provided it is true, of course). Hopefully if everyone boycotts the toiletries containing plastic, the manufacturers will change their recipes to be plastic-free.
Unfortunately, the ‘zero plastic inside’ sticker hasn’t reached SA yet, so rather take it on yourself to find out what is in the products you use. There is also a Beat the micro bead app, to check products on, as well as a list of plastic free brands online: http://www.beatthemicrobead.org/look-for-the-zero/
I was really excited to see two South African brands on this list: Esse and Africa Organics! Yet another reason to buy more of their amazing products. (You can find out about some of their products I’ve tried here.)