May 18th: An Taisce’s Clean Coasts programme announces that they are joining the Beat the Microbead Campaign. (www.beatthemicrobead.org) Ex International rugby star Shane Byrne lines out in support of the campaign.
WHAT ARE MICROBEADS?
Tiny particles of plastic are ingredients in thousands of personal care products sold around the world. These plastic microbeads, hardly visible to the naked eye, flow straight from the bathroom drain into the sewage system. Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to filter out microbeads, typically less than 1 millimetre wide, and so they end up in our 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. Scientists tell us that microbeads become more toxic over time and these toxins biomagnify up the food chain so the top predator has the highest concentration of the toxins. That’s us!
BEAT THE MICROBEAD APP
The Beat the Microbead App scans the barcode of personal care products informing the consumer whether or not the product contains plastic microbeads. Products are divided into the categories Red, Orange and Green. 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.
Speaking about Beat the Microbead, Annabel FitzGerald, Clean Coasts Manager said, “Clean Coasts encourage all eco-minded consumers to download the app which takes the guess work out of choosing a face wash, body scrub or toothpaste by informing you whether or not it contains microbeads!” She added that “plastic microbeads as ingredients in personal care products is such a needless and avoidable source of pollution considering that there are many alternatives available such as crushed walnut shells and dried coconut which are just as good exfoliants”
Three out of four scrubs and peelings contain micro plastics. Shampoos, soap, toothpaste, eyeliners, lip gloss, deodorant and sunblock sticks may also contain plastic particles. These micro particles are made of Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and Nylon. PE and PP are the most common.
Two Dutch NGOs - the North Sea Foundation and the Plastic Soup Foundation - launched a smartphone App in 2012 as part of their Beat the Microbead campaign. In the summer of 2013, UNEP and the Environment and UK based NGO Fauna & Flora International partnered with these Foundations to further develop the App for international use.