Plastics on Your Skin, Plastics in Your Body
When you go to the store to purchase your next bottle of shampoo, face wash, body wash, or toothpaste, you will notice that many of these items contain small beads that supposedly exfoliate your skin, hair, teeth, and others. They are usually marketed as premium products because they provide added benefits like exfoliation or increased circulation, but these premium products also come with high price tag and a higher negative environmental impact. These beads aren’t concentrated balls of additional nutrients – they’re just tiny balls of plastic!
These tiny balls of plastics are called Microbeads. Microbeads are an example of Microplastics, which are small plastic pieces that are less than five millimeters long. Microplastics are everywhere. When you dispose plastic materials in the trash instead of recycling, it takes anywhere from 10 to 1,000 years to breakdown. (Remember, plastics never completely decompose.) In 10 to 1,000 years the plastic waste will turn into Microplastics.
These tiny pieces of plastic are in the soil, air, lakes, rivers, and oceans. As a result, they’re in the food we eat (especially fish), the water we drink, and even the air we breathe. Now, they’re in the toiletries we use as well! Once we wash ourselves with these added exfoliants, the Microbeads enter the waterway, eventually ending up in lakes and oceans. If you follow a self care regimen that includes exfoliation that these products offer, opt for natural alternatives like natural scrubs (many of which you can make at home).
According to a recent study by the University of Newcastle in Australia and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), humans may be consuming about five grams of plastic, or the equivalent of a credit card, per week. While it is not immediately clear whether the ingested plastic causes long term effects to human health, it is a clear wake up call to the excessive amount of plastic we have been using and disposing. So, next time you go to the store, choose not to buy toiletries with Microbeads, and while you’re at it, carry a cloth bag so you don’t use plastic bags either. Next time you go to eat out, order your drink without a plastic straw. The plastic crisis is getting worse because it’s so easy to consume when marketing is catered towards what seems like your benefit, but we can take small steps to encourage change because reducing individual plastic consumption will go a long way towards reducing Microplastics.
For more information on Microplastics and Microbeads, take a look at this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAiIGd_JqZc
Pranav Rajouria, Communications and Partnerships Coordinator