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It’s not easy being green

I like to think I am a well informed and responsible consumer.  But like us all- I am also short on time, shop in a rush too often and am attracted to special offers!  A recent Facebook post sent me scouring the shelves of my house looking for hidden plastics in unlikely places. The video I saw on Facebook told the tale of microbeads – tiny beads of plastic added to face wash, bubble bath and toothpaste that are harmless to us as we use these products, but which will come back to haunt us.

To my horror, the search of my house revealed that the new face wash I had bought on special offer had the beads inside and I found them glimmering in a tube of toothpaste.  Then I read a Sunday Times article highlighting the presence of these beads in bubble bath for children.

Microbeads get washed down our drains and into our rivers and oceans when we use these products. They are too small to be taken out by our waste water treatment systems and go into the sea where they get mistaken for food by fish and other sea creatures, over time making their bellies feel full so that they starve to death.  Even if the fish don’t die, but are caught for food, we end up eating these fish with the plastics we washed down the sink and the pollutants and toxins that cling to the plastic beads.

We wouldn’t put plastic beads in our ketchup or mayonnaise, we wouldn’t add them to our food, yet by adding them to our cosmetics we can end up eating them anyway.

The thing about micro beads is that we don’t need them. We can manage without sparkles in our toothpaste and bubble bath and we can go back to the natural exfoliators we used to use like crushed nuts and husks.  It is no hardship to abandon microbeads yet it would have a really positive effect on our oceans and waterways, as well as to human health.

This is why countries including the U.S. have started to ban microbeads.  Other countries could follow a similar route or companies could just take the lead themselves and realise that micro-beads were a bad choice and decide to remove them from their products. In the meantime as a consumer be alert.  The microbeads I found in my house were almost all from things I had bought on special offer.  The ingredient to look for in the small print and avoid is polyethylene or polypropylene. As they say, its not easy being green.

Hammerhead sharks - an icon of our oceans
Hammerhead sharks – an icon of our oceans

I found this useful site if you want to learn more or get involv