Although microbeads are seriously tiny they have an environmental impact that is anything but small. Typically used as exfoliating agents in cosmetics such as face washes, microbeads are microscopic particles made of plastic – and, unfortunately, plastic, no matter in how small a form, is never innocent.
You see, plastic does not biodegrade, which in the most simple terms means that it simply never goes away. Once we produce it, it stays, which gets especially alarming once we consider that, globally, we produce 300 million tons of plastic every single year. 78 percent of it does not get recycled and, in the end, around 8.8 million tons gets dumped into the oceans – where it threatens the lives of hundreds of marine animals species.
As much as microbeads may seem a very small part of that problem, we need to remember that they accumulate really easily and fast and their size, contrary to what our first impression may be, makes it all too easy for them to become a real danger. A single squeeze of face wash can contain even over 100,000 microbeads. Due to their size, microbeads can easily wash through water treatment facilities, travel to the oceans, and, finally, be ingested by marine life. Unfortunately, once that happens, these beads can clog up their intestines, or get absorbed into the tissues of their body and release toxins into their organisms.
Those pervasive little pieces of plastic have already been banned in a number of places. But now, scientists have developed an alternative to microbeads – one that is fully biodegradable and environmentally friendly!
The new microbeads are made of cellulose and could very easily replace the damaging plastic kind. They were developed by the engineers from the University of Bath’s Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies. Dr. Janet Scott from the university’s Department of Chemistry explains that the beads biodegrade into harmless sugars and, what is more, are created from a renewable source. Hopefully, now the environmentally damaging plastic microbeads will soon be completely replaced with the new version – one that has no way of getting into sea turtles’ stomachs and under seabirds’ skin!
We can all do our part to minimize the impact of plastic. To learn how you can reduce your personal use and find alternatives for things like microbeads, check out One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic campaign!
Image source: dungthuyvunguyen/Pixabay