Microbeads: The tiny, yet massive problem you probably didn’t know about

If you know me or have read my about page then you will know I’m a vegetarian (and have been for 3 years), with this comes deep passion for animal welfare and a strong desire to end cruelty and suffering. However this does not mean I’m gonna throw a bucket of red paint over a kebab shop and shout ‘meat is murder’ or try and ‘convert’ people to vegetarianism, I respect other people’s views even if I personally believe them to be wrong. I’m a fairly normal human being (well most of the time, haha) despite how the media might portray vegetarians, vegans and animal rights campaigners.

Now some people may say my two passions are somewhat conflicting, what with the beauty industry having a history of testing on animals and pretty much condemning them to a shortened life filled with pain and suffering. I am in no way okay with this but as a business student I don’t blame the individual companies, instead I blame governments, regulators and consumers.


For example MAC who has suffered a lot of bad press due to animal testing only does it if it is required by a country’s law. And the main culprit is China who despite changing their animal testing laws a couple of years ago, still won’t accept cosmetics made outside the country without the individual prodcts or their ingredients being tested.(And given that MAC products are made in Canada, according to the internet.)  As China is a massive market MAC aren’t just gonna pull out of the country and risk losing so much revenue.

http://elcompanies.com/PdfLibrary/Statement_AnimalTesting.pdf – Estee Lauder Companies statement on animal testing (the parent company of MAC)

…Anyway enough about my opinions on animal testing in cosmetics, back to microbeads. So what are they? Microbeads are tiny (usually smaller than 5mm) pieces of plastic most commonly polyethylene but other plastics can be used, it’s used as a cheap exfoliant in health and beauty products. The problem is that they are small enough to move through water filtration systems and as a result end up in the ocean. Once there they pollute the water and enter the food chain, fish swallow them and they are then eaten by birds or said fish end up on your plate. It’s enough to put anyone off their dinner!

‘Microbeads are tiny, and may seem harmless, but 100,000 microbeads are washed down the sink with a single application of some products, ending up in the sea and the food chain.’- Greenpeace (http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/blog/oceans/what-are-plastic-microbeads-and-why-should-we-ban-them-20160114)

This just adds to the tonnes of plastic already floating around in our oceans, this is a disgusting thought and something needs to change.

Despite what you maybe think, consumers actually hold a lot of power over large companies as YOU are their biggest stakeholder. So check your beauty products for microbeads and this includes things like toothpaste as well as face washes and scrubs like you might expect and STOP BUYING THEM! Instead look out for products that use natural exfoliants like seeds, salt, sugar or nuts. In terms of body scrubs I recommend Original Source Mint Tea Tree Scrub and for face scrubs I recommend Boots Botanics All Bright Purifying Face Scrub, natural products don’t have to be expensive and in fact can be more effective than synthetic ones.

Canada and America are banning them and some companies have changed or are in the process of changing their products but the UK government is yet to take it seriously and this needs to change. So check your products and sign the petition!!


Olivia x






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