Our friends at the Story of Stuff have been busy battling a tiny but toxic threat: plastic beads that are used in cosmetic products like face washes, scrubs, even toothpaste. After they head down our shower and sink drains, these little bits of plastic are too small for water treatment plants to capture, so they end up in our oceans. There, they get eaten up by small organisms, who in turn get eaten by bigger fish. Toxins from these microbeads get absorbed and bio-accumulate up the food chain, meaning they can eventually end up back on our dinner plate and in our bodies – yuck! Microbeads are also unnecessary: we were perfectly clean and healthy without them for the previous millennia of human hygiene, and there are many safe, non-plastic alternatives that scrub just as well – we carry a few in our Store!
There’s more good news. Thanks to the grass roots organizing and political advocacy of Californians Against Waste, Story of Stuff and other environmental groups, legislation is moving forward in California to ban microbeads. Because the companies that manufacture these products don’t want to create different formulas for each state’s regulations, a win in California would mean sweeping changes across the industry. California’s proposed bill, AB 888, was recently approved in the Assembly, and will soon be voted on by the Senate, where a similar bill failed by a single vote last year.
We don’t love microbeads, but we love the attention this issue is getting right now. Microbeads are one symptom of a plastic-addicted culture: suddenly they’re everywhere, in our environment, in our bodies, and we don’t even need them. It won’t stop or go away unless we take action to raise awareness with consumers, and prevent producers from creating more. To highlight these systemic concerns, and encourage action to reduce plastic, we’re excited to be running a series of events for Plastic-Free July again. We’ll be announcing more on that soon. In the meantime, check out the first event we’re co-sponsoring: Plastic Is Getting Drastic with Capt. Charles Moore. Capt. Moore has made it his life’s work to research the plastic swirling in our oceans, and he’ll be sharing his latest findings at this event.
Head to Story of Stuff for what consumers and citizens should know about the nitty-gritty of microbeads, and stay tuned for updates on AB 888 and Plastic-Free July.
[Photo by Thegreenj on Wikimedia Commons]