Beat the Microbead

Remember our intern's research this summer on plastic in her face scrub? Now, there is an app for that!

After Pam learned that tiny plastic microbeads are commonly used in face scrubs and are harmful to fish, she researched the entire staff's face scrubs to ensure our ingredients were plastic free. 

Now a free phone app can do the reasearch for you. "Beat the Microbead" just launched the international version of their app. All you do is scan that barcode of your favorite facial cleansing product and check to see if it is plastic free. The app breaks down the information into a simple system: Red: the product contains microbeads; Orange: the product contains microbeads but the manufacturer has pledged to stop using microbeads in the near future; Green, the product does not contain microbeads.

The app is growing its database of products, and if your product is not listed it teaches you what to look for in the ingredients, and you can upload a picture of the product if it contains plastic. This includes: Polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and nylon.

It is also worth noting that the plastic microbeads may not just be in your face scrub. Plastic can be found in soaps, lip balms and even toothpaste! According to Beat the Microbead: "Tiny particles of plastic have been added to possibly thousands of personal care products sold around the world. These microbeads, hardly visible to the naked eye, flow straight from the bathroom drain into the sewer system. Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to filter out microbeads and that is the main reason why, ultimately, they contribute to the Plastic Soup swirling around the world’s oceans. Sea creatures absorb or eat microbeads. These microbeads are passed along the marine food chain. Since humans are ultimately at the top of this food chain, it is likely that we are also absorbing microbeads from the food we eat. Microbeads are not biodegradable and once they enter the marine environment, they are impossible to remove."

To learn more about plastic ending up in our seafood read are past Ocean Watch Essay on Bioaccumulation.