We've all heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch - the mass of garbage, mostly plastics, floating around in the Pacific. The thought of these large pieces of trash entangled, almost an island of their own, is overwhelming. But what we often forget is that the plastics polluting our waterways don't have to be visible. Many of them come from our bathrooms, from our toiletries - microbeads.
It's been years since scientists reported on the environmental effects of microbeads, which go down our drains, are ingested by marine life, and eventually are eaten by us. The New York Times explains that the problem goes beyond just the plastic itself. Because plastic degrades so slowly, it becomes coated with chemicals like PCBs in the water, making it even more hazardous to fish, and by extension to humans. In a study of 34 New York State water processing plants, spherical and speckled microbeads were found at 74% of them, and they contribute to a large amount of plastic pollution in the Great Lakes. Yet these tiny particles are still more popular than ever, filling the shelves at beauty stores and drug stores all over the world.
Some states, Illinois, Colorado, Maine, New Jersey, and most recently Maryland have passed legislation to phase out microbeads (you can sign the #banthebead petition here). The Netherlands has announced that they will be microbead free by 2016, and Canada may be soon to follow suit. But in the meantime, what are our exfoliation alternatives? Cosmetic company Lush, who is a huge advocate to #banthebead, is all about natural alternatives like salt, nuts, charcoal, rice, and more. And, from personal experience, natural alternatives work great. Below are a few of our favorite, microbead-free alternatives. Share yours with us!