After you´ve showered or brushed your teeth, you might have had contact with quite a lot of microplastic! Yes, that´s right we are talking PLASTIC. You might be wondering what the hell I mean. Well, very small plasticbeads and fragments are used as abrading mediums or simply as fillers in many cosmetics. Most of these particles are so small, that you can only see them with a microscope. Nevertheless they pose a huge threat to the environment, the fauna and us humans. They have found access into our food chain and ironically we humans are eating somehow our own trash. They´ve been proven in many different species like mussels and lobsters. The oceans are having a very hard time as day by day tons of garbage find their way into rivers, lakes and finally into our oceans. Due to the natural circumstances like wind, saltwater and the sun it keeps breaking down to smaller fragments, but plastic never really biodegrades! Plastic isn´t a natural substance on our planet and nature didn´t have enough time to adapt to this new material, so there are no animals or bacteria that we know of to be capable of decomposing it.
Now some of us might think, it´s good that it keeps getting smaller and smaller so that we don´t see it anymore and animals neither. Unfortunately, that´s not the case. At all. Plastic has the particular feature that toxic substances accumulate on the surface of the fragments. The smaller these are, the bigger is its surface compared to its size. There are many fish, birds and small invertebrates that feed on even smaller marine life that reassembles these small plastic pellets.They simply think it´s food and thus eat it with all its bound toxins like plasticisers, flame retardants, mercury, DDT, and UV protection agents. The smaller fish will then be eaten by bigger fish and so on. That´s how the toxins are passed on all along the food chain until they reach the apex predators. By now these are the humans. We catch the fish out of the ocean in order to consume it and cover our need for animal protein. The fishes that are most important (and most valuable) are in most cases predatory fish, the higher they
are in the food chain the higher their prize. Especially in Europe, Asia and northern America the demand for red, succulent flesh like the one of tunas or swordfishes is huge. The bigger they are the more fish they´ve eaten in their life and thus the more toxics they have accumulated. Some of the toxics will pass on into the ones that consume the fish. We are literally eating our own trash and poisoning ourselves..
In addition many seabirds like albatrosses mistake the plastic fragments among other bigger plastic trash pieces for food and even pass it on to their youngs, as several studies have shown. This is leading to evergrowing numbers of dead birds, that have died due to the plastic in their stomachs. These birds starve to death with a full belly …
Now having said all this I find it absolutely insane to even add to this severe problem that will already keep the coming future generations busy. Microplastics can be found in cosmetics like Peelings, Shower gels and tooth pastes. Yes, you´ve heard right! Microplastics are added to increase their “cleaning power” or increase their weight. Some of these products might even advertise their “relation to nature” and might have some misleading logos on their packaging. So, don´t let them fool you. At least here in the European Union i is NOT OBLIGATORY to state whether plastic products have been used to create the product or not. Most of the times you´ll find detailed information on the producer website, but even there it´s most of the times hard to find more information on the used ingredients. In some cases the amount of plastic used can be as high as 10%, so if you have s shower gel containing 250 ml, it also contains 25 grams of plastic!
Let me again summarize this: There IS already huge amounts of plastic waste in our oceans, lots of it floating around in ocean gyres, the most famous of these the great pacific garbage patch. Slowly, very slowly the plastic pieces get smaller and smaller until they are no longer visible to our eyes. Having many companies that add microplastics to their cosmetic products, we are worsening the problem. These small particles cannot be filtered out and after you brushed your teeth with let´s say Elmex (they used microplastics in their tooth paste until beginning of this year) the tiny plastic particles just go down the drain and enter the sewer system, end up in river and finally find their way into our oceans.
It´s about making choices and trying to change what you can. And pass on the word, so that more people do so.
Please boycott the brands and products that use microplastic in their products. Maybe write a letter stating your concern or sign a petition.
And yes, sometimes it´s about the small things in life. Sure, if I forgot my bag at home and I am standing in the supermarket thinking if I should take a bag, I simply won´t take it! I am just going to use my hands and carry it home! Reduce your footprint as much as you can and things like avoiding plastic bags or proper waste separation at home are easy to do!
Check out this link to find a list by the german organization BUND – it shows cosmetics that contain microplastics. Most probably you´ll find something you´ve been using too.
Use your “Search” function of your browser of choice and type in the brands and products you are usually using. If you find them on this list, it means they are containing microplastics and you should switch to a more environment-friendly alternative.
Useful links and further information:
Find some statements from national as well as international companies on this site: www.beatthemicrobread.org. They also offer good information on the problem and provide links to read further. Check out the smartphone app, too!
Take five minutes and watch this – remember: Plastic bags are not native to the oceans!