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Body Wash and Plastic Pollution

By now I am sure everybody has heard about the Pacific Gyre, also known as the Pacific Garbage Patch. If not, peak at this http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/earth/oceanography/great-pacific-garbage-patch.htm and this http://theweek.com/article/index/227878/the-pacific-oceans-growing-plastic-problem and this http://io9.com/5911969/lies-youve-been-told-about-the-pacific-garbage-patch. But have you yet heard about how bodies of water closer to home – some of the Great Lakes – are awash in plastic? If not, read this http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=microplastic-pollution-in-the-great-lakes. If this link doesn’t work for you, go here http://grist.org/list/the-microbeads-in-your-body-wash-are-slowly-filling-the-great-lakes-with-plastic/ and then click through to Scientific American.

The point is that some marketing genius came up with the creative idea of using small plastic beads, known as micro plastic, as exfoliates—abrasives—in facial and body scrubs. Since these are too tiny for water treatment plants to filter, they wash down our drains and into the Great Lakes. The biggest worry is that fish such as yellow perch or turtles and seagulls think of them as dinner. If fish or birds eat the inert beads, the material can deprive them of nutrients from real food or get lodged in their stomachs or intestines, blocking digestive systems. And, of course, it could move up the food chain.

We can, of course, build really expensive water treatment plants to remove the plastic beads from our effluent. We could also just top putting it there in the first place. There are alternatives without asking people to stop washing their faces or bodies and without asking them to give up exfoliation. Some cosmetic companies already use natural exfoliating materials, such as pumice, oatmeal, apricot, or walnut husks http://www.plasticsnews.com/article/20130607/NEWS/130609936/cosmetics-firms-nixing-exfoliation-microbeads#. To help prevent nonsense like putting micro plastic in our body wash in the first place, all marketing majors and anybody associated with “product development” ought to take a basic course in ecology. A little ecological literacy will go a long way. And it will contribute to both future sustainability and social enterprise.

And then there is another crazy craze: coffee pods. That is the topic for my next blog post.

  • By Lauren on 7.5.2013 at 10:24 am

    Thanks for posting this important topic. I think many consumers have no idea what these microbeads are made of and don’t consider what happens when they wash down the drain. Until recently I was always under the assumption that they dissolved while I washed. Looking forward to your post on coffee pods!

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