Plastic microbeads is one of the most sneaky forms of harmful plastic that we never pay attention to. It is also one of the most harmful agents of marine pollution. What are microbeads? Remember the tiny wonderful ‘cleansing’ beads in your facewash, shower gel, toothpaste and other items of personal care that exfoliate your skin to give you a flawless complexion? It’s also increasingly present in washing detergent. What no one tells you is the not so ‘micro’ problem with microbeads entering our water systems and oceans causing major pollution. Another ‘micro’ element that wreaks havoc in water is microfibers from clothes that run into our water bodies through washing of clothes. So this feature of Save Oceans Guide in partnership with ModestFish.com will take you through another form of plastic and synthetics you never suspect- microbeads and microfibers.
The issue with Microbeads
Over 80% of plastic in the oceans comes from land based activities. Plastic takes thousands of years to degrade and the plastic in oceans often forms huge floating ‘islands’ where currents meet. One of the largest and most infamous plastic island is the Pacific Trash Gyre or the Great Pacific Garbage Garbage Patch in the Pacific Ocean which has a larger surface area than Texas. The action of the sea breaks down plastic into smaller pieces making it particularly deadly for marine life as they mistakenly consume it. As the plastic deteriorates it absorbs other toxins and then enters the food chain, eaten by fish. This seafood can become contaminated with cadmium, mercury and lead and then places humans at risk when eaten.
If you think of just plastic bottles when imagining this plastic menace in the seas, then you’re wrong. Plastic is also entering the ocean as microbeads. These are tiny plastic beads present in many shower gels and toothpastes, and millions of them get washed down the drain and ultimately into the sea every day. These tiny beads can be ingested even by plankton and then move on up through the food chain. The potential risk microbeads pose to marine environments and possibly you are becoming more and more apparent. There is great pressure on governments to take a stand and ban these deadly plastic additions to our oceans before the situation worsens. Many countries have banned microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products like UK. Some retailers have also taken action like Waitrose which has banned sale of items containing microbeads among other steps to control plastic pollution.
The deal with Microfibers
We all know how polluting is the fashion industry- one of the top 3 indutsries in the world causing pollution. Massive textile and resource waste, unethical manufacturing practices, water pollution, the use of toxic chemicals are the dark side of fashion. We too become a part of it not just by consuming fast fashion but by a very basic action- laundry!
- Laundry is it extensively water and energy intensive and detergents, often over-used, end up in our water system. Also washing products come in plastic containers which in turn is another burden on our eco-system as it is not biodegradable and proper recycling is difficult for most people.
- Greenpeace has shown that residues of the hazardous chemicals that are used during the fashion production stage remain in many clothing items in the form of microfibers. And when we wash the clothes these microfibers are discharged into our water system and turn into even more toxic and hormone disrupting chemical nonylphenol (NPs).
- Laundry decreases the life span of our clothes making us buy more thus perpetuating the viscous cycle of fast fashion.
Your clothes made from acrylic, nylon, and polyester including your beloved yoga pants. Every time you wash these synthetic fabrics, millions of microfibers are released into the water. And they’re too small to be filtered out by waste treatment plants. The number of microfibers from synthetic fabrics making their way from washing machine into rivers and oceans is alarming. Sewage treatment plants don’t effectively filter out these microfibers. A study in University of California put a clear picture of the microfibers situation- Santa Barbara a city of 100,000 inhabitants releases a wash-related volume of microfibers equivalent to 15,000 plastic bags. Now imagine massive metropolitans of the world and their generation of microfibers! Berlin may be responsible for generating microfibres equivalent to 540,000 plastic bags – every single day! The tiny fibers are consumed by aquatic organisms, which can result in gastrointestinal infections and blockages, reproductive problems, and starvation—problems that ultimately work their way up the food chain. These plastic fibers are showing up in fish and shellfish sold in California and Indonesia for human consumption. One study claims that microfibers are responsible for 85% of shoreline pollution across the globe.
Say no to microbeads & control microfibers from entering oceans
It’s vital that every person plays their part by refusing to purchase products which contain microbeads. So if you see these terms on the packaging, just avoid unless it is made clear what is the exfoliating agent:
SHOP GUPPYFRIEND WASH BAG
US Dollar 20,00 in USA & Euro 29,95 in Europe
Shipping to Europe only. Check Patagonia for USA.
Controlling the microbeads and microfibers issue is not so difficult readers with simple lifestyle changes and correct green choices! Hope you found this Save Oceans Guide helpful because we want to give you all aspects of helping reduce marine pollution. If you have more suggestions then write to us on firstname.lastname@example.org or post your tip on social media with #GreeningIsWinning & tag @urbanmeisters (on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter). Let’s share our green living hacks.