The Ban on Microbeads – Why It Matters and Why It’s Still Not Enough
“Everyone can visualize floating plastic water bottles, but it’s harder to envision the damage these smaller pieces of plastic can cause.”
That’s a quote from David Andrews, senior scientist at Environmental Working Group, in an article on Huffington Post.
And it makes you think. Plastic is ubiquitous in our day-to-day lives, and even more so in our waste – even in the water we’re sending down the drain. Microbeads – those tiny plastic particles marketed as exfoliants in everything from face scrubs and hand soaps to body washes and toothpastes – take a huge environmental toll. Polyethylene microbeads neither disintegrate nor biodegrade – they just pile up in our waterways and our oceans, destroying coral populations that ultimately ingest them.
The United States took a step in the right direction last December when President Obama signed a bill forcing companies to remove microbeads from rinse-off cosmetics by the middle of 2017. Unfortunately, specific wording in the Microbead-Free Waters Act leaves quite the loophole for companies that use microbeads in products left on the skin. And even worse, identifying these companies is next to impossible.
As places like Australia and the United Kingdom begin their own campaigns to ban microbeads, they’re taking careful notes. Activists in these areas are pushing for bans on any products with microplastics that wash away down the drain, a much more generous description.
On American soil, the smartest next step may be a right-to-know bill, which would force companies to disclose their ingredients.
It’s an issue that’s becoming increasingly concerning. A report by the World Economic Forum shares this alarming statistic: given projected consumption rates, oceans will contain more plastics by weight than fish by 2050.
It’s a staggering thought, and a sign that something must be done to reduce our casual use-and-toss attitude toward plastic, no matter what shape it comes in.