Microbeads have been a bit of taboo in the consumer goods scene. It has risen up a couple of times in major media sources noting the damaging effects of these products that were unknown until only a couple years ago. For the uninformed Microbeads are small plastic beads that are injected into liquid facial soap and sold at the consumer level (typically found at places like Rite Aid, Walgreens etc.). These seeming harmless beads are actually tiny destroyers though. The combination of very small plastic objects and the very long lifespan of plastic creates a serious ecological problem.
“Solid wastes are the discarded leftovers of our advanced consumer society. This growing mountain of garbage and trash represents not only an attitude of indifference toward valuable natural resources, but also a serious economic and public health problem.”
-U.S. President, Jimmy Carter
While former U.S. President Jimmy Carter may not have been specifically applying this statement to Microbeads; I believe the attitude of which U.S. consumers take to Microbeads is very fitting. It is very easy to overlook massive problems that a nation is creating when there is no striking event. For example, a fire explodes on a oil drilling platform, the general public erupts with hysteria at the company with the help of tremendous media coverage. Microbeads however typically does not show up in the national news, due to lack of media attention. That’s what makes this topic so important, because it's traditionally overlooked as a actual problem.
Microbeads are relatively new to the consumer product initially gaining popularity in the U.S. market in the last decade. The product’s purpose is to help skin further exfoliate. The adoption of the product is very high mainly because large companies like Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble which switched over to Microbeads for many of their exfoliate type facial washes. Microbeads are designed to go down drain, which furthers the issue because of vast amounts of them that ends up in the ocean.
In many situations sometimes there is a unreasonable balance between a consumer wanting a good versus the environmental damage that it causes. A good example of this balance is with all the consumer knowledge being shared about Microbeads about them causing tremendous damage and yet only two of the fifty U.S. states have blanket banned them (Nj.com and LaTimes.com).
The alternatives to Microbeads has been increasing as the awareness of the problem increases. The main issue still being that Microbeads are not viewed with the same hostility as more visually stunning problems like garbage dumps in the ocean. The biggest alternative being a alteration in the materials used. For example St. Ives has started using apricot cores to replace the plastic, which obviously have a much easier time breaking down.