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Face scrubs and peels putting plastic in our seas

07/03/2014 by Alexandra

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Recent research has shown that 3 in 4 exfoliating scrubs and peels found on the high street contain tiny plastic particles also known as micro beads or micro plastics, which are now present in all the seas and oceans of the world.

Effect on marine organisms and the 'plastic soup' problem

Micro plastics found in cosmetic products are a relatively new source of pollution and millions of people use these products on a daily basis, unaware of the potential consequences of washing these micro beads down the drain and into our oceans.

New research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that microplastics are affecting the reproduction capabilities of Pacific oysters.

Researchers found that when the Pacific oysters were exposed to microplastics they produced approximately 41% fewer larvae, and the larvae that were produced grew at a slower rate. The scientists conducting the study believe that this is because the microplastics interfere with the oysters’ digestive systems, causing them to take in fewer nutrients.

The Marine Conservation Society have stated that whilst 'giving your complexion a bit of intense therapy may do it some good… it's giving our oceans anything but a makeover. As the products are rinsed off, they go down the drain and that means we are flushing plastic into our seas where it contributes to the 'plastic soup' problem. Micro plastics can also enter organisms e.g. fish, lobster, bivalves, oysters, sea cucumbers, zooplankton and thereby enter the food chain. Eventually this could also affect human health.'

The 'Plastic Soup' problem is a term coined after American captain Charles Moore made a shocking discovery in 1997 in the Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles away from civilization, where he found plastic in a high concentration in an area as large as the combined surface of Portugal, Spain and France. It is now known that sea currents collect the plastic in our seas and oceans and then form a gyre of marine litter. Shockingly the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ is not unique and five such gyres exist in our oceans.

Microbeads banned in America

At the end of 2015, US Congress passed the Microbead-Free Waters Act, recognising the dangerous effect that plastic microbeads are having on our marine eco-systems. Read more about the microbead ban in our blog post.

Natural alternatives to plastic micro beads

MSC and the North Sea foundation are calling for manufacturers to stop using plastic micro beads in their skincare and instead use natural alternatives such as anise seeds, sand, salt or coconut.

Green People's Fruit Scrub is free from micro plastics, instead using the natural exfoliating power of Bamboo and Bentonite Clay to gently remove dead skin cells and impurities for a glowing complexion.

How can you help

Politicians and celebrities have started calling for a UK microbead ban. Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, called for the UK government to issue a ban on microbeads in cosmetics, following a ban by US Congress. Musician Ellie Goulding tweeted her support for a petition to save our seas and ban microbeads, which prompted many of her followers to sign the petition.

You can help in the fight to end the 'plastic soup' problem in our oceans and call to stop the practice of putting micro plastics in products by signing the MSC petition, and checking out which of your products at home contain these micro plastics. Check the list of ingredients on the label of cosmetic products for plastics which can appear as: Polyethylene / Polythene (PE), polypropylene (PP) or Polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

Buying organic and natural scrubs and exfoliators such as Green People's Fruit Scrub is the best way to ensure you're not contributing to the 'plastic soup' problem, and achieve a glowing complexion naturally and safely knowing our products won't harm you or the environment.

Fruit Scrub Exfoliator 50ml

Fruit Scrub Exfoliator 50ml

A natural exfoliator to deeply cleanse all skin types

Age Defy+ Soft Buff Skin Exfoliator 30ml

Age Defy+ Soft Buff Skin Exfoliator 30ml

A facial exfoliator to deliver skin clarity and a refined, revived complexion

Green People for Men - No. 1 Exfoliating Face Scrub 100ml

Green People for Men - No. 1 Exfoliating Face Scrub 100ml

Certified organic exfoliator and face wash for men


Update: January 2018

Since this post was published, a production ban on using microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products has come into force in the UK. The ban prevents manufacturers from using microbeads in their products with immediate effect, and stipulates that retailers will no longer be able to sell products containing microbeads as of July 2018. The ban comes after campaigners called for microplastics to be removed from all cosmetic and personal care products due to the harm they pose to marine life and the contamination risk they pose to global drinking water supplies.

Whilst campaigners celebrate a victory against microbeads their fight to protect the planet from pollutant plastics continues. Environmental Scientists are now turning their attention to glitter and calling for its use in cosmetics to reviewed. Often made from plastic, when glitter goes down the plug hole it can be consumed by marine life and end up in the human food chain. Far from adding a touch of sparkle to our suppers, the plastic used to make glitter is thought to release chemicals that can disrupt hormones in the bodies of animals and humans. Campaigners are calling for manufacturers that use glitter in their products to consider using safer, non-toxic biodegradable plastic instead.

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