Victory against cosmetic plastic pollution

This 2016 video is called How We Can Keep Plastics Out of Our Ocean | National Geographic.

From Wildlife Extra:

Lush bow to pressure and ditch plastic glitter from products

Lush remove microplastic glitter from products

January 2013. Lush Cosmetics have decided to remove all glitter and microplastics from their product range, just days after claiming it was a “non-story”.

Lush have done some great work for the environment, and have often been leaders in creating animal and environment friendly products, but on this issue they fell down. However, after pressure from an online petition (started nearly 2 months ago), the media and other concerned parties they have made a sharp volte-face and decided to ditch the litter glitter from their products.

5 tons of litter a “tiny amount”

It was estimated that they were dumping some 5 tons of plastic glitter per year down the drains of the UK (And more in other countries), so their claim that it was a “tiny amount” was a little disingenuous. Lush have also spun this move to make it appear that they are doing it from the good of their hearts, rather than in response to complaints.

Hilary Jones, Ethics Director at Lush Cosmetics said: “Some of the shine and sparkle in our bath products used to be from micro plastic glitters. For some years now, because of our concerns about the accumulation of plastics in the environment, we have been gradually replacing these plastic glitters with new alternatives as innovations have become available.

From British weekly The Observer:

Are microbeads and microplastics in beauty products a threat to the oceans?

The ubiquitous use of tiny fragments of plastic in cosmetics seems to be a serious problem for the marine environment. Am I right, and what can be done about it?

Mermaid tears Cornwall

“Washing your face can be an act of pollution if you use a cleaner that contains zillions of plastic microbeads – aka ‘mermaid tears‘ – for exfoliation”: Lucy Siegle on the microplastics which in some seas are more plentiful than plankton. Photograph: Observer

It is true that microscopic particles of polyethylene now bob around the high seas. It’s also true that the origins of these microplastics are likely to be consumer products. Washing your face can be an act of pollution if you use a cleaner that contains zillions of plastic microbeads for exfoliation. Too small to be sifted out at sewage treatment plants, they end up in the ocean, where the plastic becomes a persistent pollutant. As sea temperatures are low, plastic does not biodegrade; it is also ingested by wildlife. How could they avoid it? In some seas plastic fragments are more plentiful than plankton.

So let’s dry our guilt-induced “mermaid tears” – as these polluting plastic particles are poetically known – and face this issue. Largely this involves staring down the behemoth cosmetics industry, which has developed something of a dependency on fragments of plastic – apparently even some companies that send out beautiful sustainable messages about other parts of their supply chain.

So why use such an ugly ingredient? Well, plastic is cheap and far more cost effective than traditional biodegradable exfoliators such as coconut husk. There is also a tendency for the beauty industry to stick its head in the sand. Show us proof that microplastics cause ecosystem collapse and we’ll think about ending its use seems a pervasive message.

But experts have accumulated evidence that tells us the time to act is now. Last month, for example, scientists from Wageningen University in the Netherlands showed that plastic nanoparticles have an adverse effect on sea organisms such as mussels.

At the same time the beauty industry is ever more dependent on the oceans for its own survival. Recent beauty products developed courtesy of the oceans include sea fennel in sun creams, seaweed in anti-cellulite treatments and even ingredients derived from salmon hatcheries. The industry needs a reminder that an ecosystem driven to the edge will not be productive.

As consumers we are well placed to provide this. Follow the lead set by the Plastic Soup Foundation (, which quizzes all mainstream cosmetic companies on their use of microplastic. There’s even an app, Beat the Micro Bead, to assist with shopping (scan the barcode – if the app turns red, the company is using microbeads and unrepentant about it; orange means the company has pledged to phase out microplastics).

Actively asking questions, boycotting and pushing for alternatives are things we can all do. It’s time to scrub microplastics out of your skincare routine.

Green crush

The perfect Christmas gift for the eco-design nerd in your life? Energy Trumps from the Agency of Design. This graphically attractive and terribly useful deck of cards presents information about the eco credentials of 45 widely used materials such as cardboard and PLA (polylactic acid) in a simple way that lets you see their environmental impact at a glance. Energy Trumps allows you to make super-fast decisions about which material is better. Go to

12 thoughts on “Victory against cosmetic plastic pollution

  1. Thank you for this excellent post. A reminder that we must be diligent in our purchases – every thing we buy must be thoroughly research or we may inadvertently be part of the problem!


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