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Microbeads Be Gone! Land of Lincoln First to Ban Synthetic Beads in Skin Care

Plastic pollution swirling in our Great Lakes
Plastic pollution swirling in our Great Lakes
Dollar Photo club

Others states are still considering legislation, but Governor Pat Quinn have made it happen! Last month Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation banning the manufacture and sale of personal care products containing synthetic microbeads. “Banning microbeads will help ensure clean waters across Illinois and set an example for our nation to follow” said Governor Quinn.

“It is great to see Illinois leading the way on laws that will help reduce plastic pollution in our Great Lakes” stated executive director, Jennifer Walling, of the Illinois Environmental Council.

However, more states are needed to force companies to come up with other alternatives to deliver similar exfoliating performance without the need to use polyethylene which is used in L’Oreal’s Go 360 Clean Exfoliating Scrub or polypropylene beads used in Dermalogica’s Clear Start-Blackhead Clearing Pore Control Scrub.

Nevertheless, L’Oreal has committed to no longer using microbeads of polyethylene in its scrubs by 2017. In addition, The Body Shop announced it would be phasing out microbeads from all its products by 2015 and Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics, has stopped its production of plastic worldwide.

What are Microbeads?
Microbeads, tiny synthetic particles, are found in numerous personal care products are causing an environmental ruckus on Lake Michigan and many other rivers across our state. These small plastic particles are about 5 mm in size and are used in cleansers, soaps, facial scrubs and shower gels for their exfoliating properties and more sensational experience. It is estimated that a single beauty product can contain over 300k microbeads.

Polyethylene is a form of plastic (synthetic polymer) is very inexpensive and versatile, used for numerous functions in cosmetic products such as abrasive agents in facial scrubs, also used as a stabilizer, binding agent, thickener and film-forming agent. One of the most popular plastic in the world, polyethylene is used by manufacturers across the globe. It can be colored in various ways without degrading the quality of plastic; it does not absorb water or does it deteriorates, and cannot be damaged by sunlight.

On August 2012, the 5 Gyre Institute, a research organization conducted a study showing that plastic pollution is affecting our Great lakes. The 5 Gyre Institute is dedicated to eliminating plastic pollution in the world’s oceans. The environmental group has stated that non-biodegradable plastic particles slip through sewage system filters and end up in lakes, absorbing toxins and then get eaten by marine animals, thus causing harm to wildlife.

Sustainable Skin Care
Although, major cosmetic companies like Johnson & Johnson, and Unilever has promised to discontinue the use of microbeads; unfortunately, the transition to more natural alternatives may take several years to implement. The purpose of exfoliation is to remove the top layers of damaged skin and formulators are searching for alternatives such as Micro Powders a biodegradable synthetic wax, which is irregular in particle shape and produce a more aggressive exfoliating effect. This product is economical and environmentally-friendly, according to Micro Powders.

Furthermore, there are a variety of biodegradable ingredients available to formulators, such as jojoba beads, made from a natural wax, as well as papaya and pineapple enzymes, baking soda, coffee grounds, oatmeal, sea salt, sugar, and walnut hulls which effectively exfoliate dead skin cells, and are less likely to harm the environment. In addition to cosmetic companies, consumers also have a responsibility to the marine environment, and environmental awareness is needed to create change.

There’s an App for that!
As a result, The North Sea Foundation and The plastic Soup Foundation launched the “Beat the Micro Bead” campaign, in an effort to urge manufacturers to eliminate microbeads in their products. For this purpose, the non-profit organizations created a smartphone app. This app allows consumers to scan personal care products to check for the presence of plastic microbeads. The app will read the bar code and indicate using color whether microbeads are present.

Red: this product contains microbeads.

Orange: this product still contains microbeads, but manufacturer has indicated it will replace in a given time frame or adapt product accordingly.

Green: this product is free from plastic microbeads.

Finally, we must do everything necessary to reduce man-made plastic pollution in our great state of Illinois, our Great Lakes and our beautiful planet!