Saturday, December 12, 2015

Microplastics in the Great Lakes

One of the major locations in the United States that plastic pollution has been a severe problem are the great lakes. These five lakes Erie, Huron, Michigan, Ontario, and Superior sit between Canada and several states including Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, and are well known as one of the major geographical locations in the US. These lakes have been under attack by plastic waste coming from microplastics in consumer products as well as plastic pellets created by the plastic manufacturing industry. It was reported that Lake Michigan contained an average of 17,000 bits of plastic per square kilometer with Lake Huron and Superior having lower concentrations but Lake Erie and Lake Ontario having higher concentrations of plastic waste. These lakes also happen to be a common location for fishers to catch edible fish such as Salmon, Bass, Perch, and Trout.

Both Canadian and American wastewater treatment centers do not have any provisions for the monitoring or removal of microplastics and also lack the filtration capabilities to remove the microplastics as well. As a result of this most of the wastewater treatment centers are reported to be leaking microplastics directly into the lakes. There are no cost estimates as to how much it would be in order to retrofit these treatment centers to have the filtration capabilities in order to prevent the microplastics from getting through. A somewhat recent report suggested that as much as 81% of the plastic debris found in the Great Lakes are classified as microplastic <1mm.

The other major source of smaller plastics in the lake come from plastic manufacturers that may sometimes have spills during transport and end up releasing many small plastic pellets which are then washed into the lakes via rain or other weather events. These small pellets are used as a raw material for the manufacture of plastic products.

An Update About Microbeads

In the last two weeks there has been a tremendous push and renewed support for the banning of microbeads nationally rather than on a state by state level.  The Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 has just passed the House.  While this is not a complete victory, it is close.  You can read all about the whole status on one my colleagues previous posts (posted 12/11/15).  There is two parts to this Act that are important.  It is a staggered plan. The Act if approved goes into affect 2017, which ban companies from manufacturing until 2018, and sales removal in 2019.  That is another 2 years of sales!  If this passes the senate please remember it is still important to vote with your money for the next 2 years by not purchasing Microbeaded products.  Remember this problem is way larger than it should be.  As the Smithsonian explained, “Because microbeads are so small, they often escape sewers' water filters, flushing out into open waters. In 2013, scientists studying microplastics in Lake Ontario found that the lake alone had about 1.1 million miniscule plastic particles per square kilometer…”(



An Unusual Microbead Product

Dentists have started to warn patients that many toothpaste brands are now containing Microbeads, advertised as a better form for cleaning teeth.  Both the FDA and independent testing groups have come out saying that the microbeads have not affected health of citizens in anyway.  However it is also noted that the research trials have been relatively short due to longevity on the market.  Like the facial scrub counterparts the toothpaste does use microbeads that range from 5um to 14um.  However despite the likeness of the beads that are in facial gel which are made of Polyethylene. Polyethylene can be toxic in the right form to humans, and should never be consumed in large quantities.  Dental Patient News seems to agree with the reasoning provided their respective sources that Polyethylene is the same ingredient that can be found in food additives. From researching further into testing performed by the FDA there is no publicly available reports stating that their is no effects from long term consumption of food additive Polyethylene.



Microbeads Affect On Humans via consumption

An unintended and often overlooked consequence of microbeads is that they do not stop when moving when they hit the ocean.  These plastic beads are light, small, round and  have a tremendous life cycle. The size is something a fish may eat. This creates a health problem for not only fish but also secondary consumers.

Taipei Times points out the average shellfish consumed by European, ingests around 11,000 Microbeads per year.  It’s noted that research done by Taipei Times found that out of a study of 308 hygiene products, 108 of them had Microbeads.  These contained chemicals that would be harmful to humans, especially in larger quantities.  

While it would be convenient if the problem was only isolated to Shellfish however, the truth is this problem affects most fish.  There are very few cases about the damaging effects of Microbeads to humans due to their small size and failure to link consumption to any health problems.



Micro plastics in the food chain.

Despite the fact that people are unlikely to ever ingest micro plastics directly, due to how the food chain works it is very easy for micro plastics to make it up from one of the smallest organisms. Zoo-plankton which are only the size of anywhere between 0.002-200mm find themselves often consuming plastic micro beads because of their similarity to their normal diet of smaller diatoms or phytoplankton. These plastics can often find their way into fish or other marine animals as they consume the zoo-plankton and in a chain enter fish that are consumed by people. The plastics that end up in the fish are often toxic to humans as well as the marine animals in various ways depending on the type of plastic. For instance, toxic metals such as mercury, lead, or cadmium have sometimes been found within the plastic. Other times, the plastic itself may also be toxic to some degrees to life. Many of them such as Diethylhexyl phthalateor or DEHP are considered carcinogens, which are chemicals that can increase the risk of developing cancer for those exposed. Even though plastic pollution is not something that will affect people directly, it is very easy for it to have an indirect effect on the general health of a population as it can very easily contaminate the food supply. One could consider banning all seafood but that's hardly practical, and it's hard to predict whether or not other forms of food can somehow be contaminated by these plastics as well.

An ocean full of poison sprinkles, or fish stick now with microbeads

Microbeads are not processed through standard sewer filtration [i]. These beads, which can provide a gentler face scrub, are entering into every layer of the ocean food cycle. Plankton blooms containing microbeads are consumed by various filter feeders. Plastic fibers of all kinds have been found to be consumed by mussels in lab experiments[ii]. These ocean floor feeders[iii] are unable to tell floating food micro particulates from microbeads. White, blue, and clear microbeads are especially likely to be consumed as they resemble naturally occurring fish eggs[iv]. This consumption of plastic doesn’t stop at the ocean’s surface, sea birds such as fulmars consume fish laden with microbeads, and in turn are filled with plastic particulates[v].
Once consumed, the microbeads themselves do not pose a direct health issue. In research on rats there was barely any direct absorption into the rat’s livers, less than 1%. Unfortunately, there are some very nasty indirect effects. Microbeads drifting through the ocean attract toxins such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), organochlorine pesticides (e.g., DDT, HCH), as well as other organic contaminants[vi]. These toxins are then transferred to the stomachs of the animals that consume them. These toxins then build up in fat cells and in turn trickle up the food web[vii].
Fish who consume these microplastics may not be able to process them out of their bodies[viii]. Once a significant amount of beads have built up it can lead to an increase of the fish’s buoyancy, preventing it from swimming down. The beads can also cause intestinal blockages and inflammation. It also could lead to “reduced reproductive fitness, drowning, diminished predator avoidance, impairment of feeding ability, and the potential transfer of damaging toxicants from seawater and ultimately death (Wright, 2013, p.487).”
Just ignoring the seafood section off the menu won’t divorce humans from microbead contamination. When fish are processed and filleted the waste fish is commonly used in animal feed. This feed is then given to pigs and other livestock.  It’s time for people to stop using microbeads before all the bacon is ruined.
Help support the ban of microbead plastics. Support H.R.1321 in the senate. An amendment to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to prohibit microbeads in cosmetics.

[i] ​Andrady, A. L. (2011). Microplastics in the marine environment. Marine Pollution Bulletin 62, 1596-1605. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul2011.05.030, (see also) Boerger, C. M., Lattin, G. L., Moore, S. L., & Moore, C. J. (2010). Plastic ingestion by planktivorous fishes in the north pacific central gyre. Marine Pollution Bulletin 60, 2275-2278., Bouwmeester, H., Hallman, P. C. H., & Peters, R. J. B. (2015). Potential health impact of environmentally released micro- and nonplastics in the human food production chain: Experiences from nanotoxicology. Environmental Science & Technology 49, 8932-8947.  doi:10.1021/acs.est.5b01090​, Rios, L. M., Moore, C., Jones, P. R. (2007) Persistent organic pollutants carried by synthetic polymers in the ocean environment. Marine pollution bulletin 54, 1230-1237. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2007.03.022, Thompson, R. C., Olsen, Y., Mitchell, R. P., Davis, A., Rowland, S. J., John, A. W. G., McGonigle, D., & Russell, A. E. (2004). Lost at Sea: Where is all the plastic? Science 304, 838., &
Wright, S. L., Thompson, R. C., & Galloway, T. S. (2013). The physical impacts of microplastics on marine organisms: A review. Environmental Pollution 178, 483-492.
[ii] .Moore, C., Jones, P. R. (2007) Persistent organic pollutants carried by synthetic polymers in the ocean environment. Marine pollution bulletin 54, 1230-1237. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2007.03.022
[iii] Moos, N., Burkhardt-Holm, P., & Kohler, A. (2012). Uptake and effect of microplastics on cells and tissue of the blue mussel mytilus eduli L. after an experimental exposure. Environmental Science & Technology 46, 11327-11335.

[iv] Boerger, C. M., Lattin, G. L., Moore, S. L., & Moore, C. J. (2010). Plastic ingestion by planktivorous fishes in the north pacific central gyre. Marine Pollution Bulletin 60, 2275-2278.
[v] Avery-Gomm, S., O’Hara, P. D., Kliene, L., Bowes, V., Wilson, L. K., & Barry, K. L. (2012). Northern fulmars as biological monitors of trends of plastic pollution in eastern north pacific. Marine Pollution Bulletin 64, 1776-1781.
[vi] Bouwmeester, H., Hallman, P. C. H., & Peters, R. J. B. (2015). Potential health impact of environmentally released micro- and nonplastics in the human food production chain: Experiences from nanotoxicology. Environmental Science & Technology 49, 8932-8947.  doi:10.1021/acs.est.5b01090
[vii] Cole, C., Lindeque, P., Halsband, C. & Galloway, T. S. (2011). Microplastics as contaminants in the marine environment: A review. Marine Pollution Bulletin 62, 2588-2587. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul2011.09.025
[viii] Fendall, L. S. & Sewell, M. A. (2009). Contributing to marine pollution by washing your face: Microplastics in facial cleansers. Marine Pollution Bulletin 58, 1225-1228.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Microplastic Pollution Harms Corals

Researchers have found a new threat to the health of ocean reefs, and that threat is microplastic pollution. Though microbeads may help you clean and exfoliate, they are causing great harm to corals. “Corals get energy from photosynthesis by symbiotic algae living within their tissues, but they also feed on a variety of other food including zooplankton, sediment and other microscopic organisms that live in seawater," said study lead author Nora Hall. By consuming microbeads, the coral’s stomach can fill up with these plastic toxins and die from a lack of proper digestion of real food. There is still more research to be done to investigate the affects of microbeads and micro plastic pollution on the growth and survival of reef-based fish. 

Jojoba beads: a natural alternative to microbeads

With the slow move towards removing microbeads from the market, consumers will be left to find new exfoliates to take the place of their previous microbead-containing products. Fret not; while there are many alternatives to microbeads such as coffee, sea salt and sugar, some consumers have found that these ingredients can be too rough and might even cause micro-lesions on the skin. Luckily, a lot of products have been shifting towards the usage of jojoba beads.

Jojoba beads are biodegradable wax-based beads that come from jojoba plants found in the southern parts of the United States and northern Mexico. These beads are derived from jojoba shrubs which produce large seeds that are turned into a wax. Once fully hydrogenated, these seeds become the jojoba beads found in many all-natural products.

The seeds are odorless and colorless, and they also serve as a viable moisturizer. Since they're wax-based, they don't irritate the skin in the way that coarser substances do. Additionally, jojoba beads can be bought in bulk, and when combined with products like shea butter or bees wax, it acts as a facial cleanser that is both effective and budget friendly.

You can find more information on jojoba beads on their website here, and there is a multitude of products containing these beads on the market today. A simple Google search for jojoba bead products will lead you towards a more sustainable and fulfilling lifestyle!


Oceans of microbeads

Ocean of microbeads
Rivers and lakes are not immune to microbead saturation. Studies[i] have shown that major United States water supplies are infected with exfoliating scrubs. The Laurentian Great Lakes, the largest fresh water source in the United States, have been shown to have microbeads in large concentrations up to 400,000 particles per square kilometer. Concentrations are up to one thousand percent higher near population centers. These plastics particulates are microbeads from cosmetics and they make up 81% of all particulates collected from the surface waters. From our rivers, these beads flow to the sea.
Beads made from various materials drift through the layers of our oceans[ii]. Lighter density beads float on the ocean’s surface where they join with plankton blooms. Denser beads drift deeper and into the sediment layers. The beads can drift between these layers by developing surface fouling[iii], a scum or slime of various types that form around and within the bead pores. This process that attracts other micro particles which then develops into an algae mats. This algae mat become host to invertebrates and the microbeads become an ecosystem of their own. These microbead colonies join the naturally occurring micro-particulates of the ocean. Their drifting multicolored beads like cake sprinkles in the salad bar of the ocean food cycle.
                There are no clear models for where ocean plastics end up in their journey, but one form of microbead sink is Artic Ice. Researchers studying Artic ice shelves found 38 to 234 particles of plastic per cubic meter[iv]. This age old method of scrubbing the ocean is changing its patterns and recent melting trends could lead to a release of over a trillion stored plastic particulates[v]. These particulates are looking at a long life time drifting in our marine environment.
While plastics on the surface break down at a steady rate, microbeads in the water are shown to decay at a significantly decreased speed[vi]. Under ideal circumstances oceanic microbeads break down at a rate of 5.7% per ten years[vii]. The actual rates expected rate is closer to 1.7% every ten years. This is due to floating plastic’s tendency to develop surface fouling. These plastics are in it for the long run, taking roughly 110 years for the beads to break down to 50% of their normal size.
That’s a long trip for anyone, but at least these beads aren’t toxic, right? Wrong. Microbeads absorb nearby toxins, such as pesticides. Microbeads have unique features that make them different from the micro-particles of the ocean. Their oil based surfaces are pocketed with fissures that allow for Velcro like connections to form between the beads and toxic substances. These substances are attracted by their natural tendency to be hydrophobic, which leads them to microbeads like a moth to a flame. Water containing microbeads is found to have levels of toxicity 104 to 105[viii] times higher than natural ocean water.
                We’ll be looking deeper into the food web in the next post, to see who’s eating these little toxic plastic nuggets and what that does to them.

[i]   Eriksen, M., Mason, S., Wilson, S., Box, C., Zellers, A., Edwards, W., Farley, H. & Amato, S. (2013). Microplastic pollution in the surface waters of the Laurentian Great Lakes. Marine Pollution Bulletin 77, 177-182.
[ii]  Hidalgo-Ruz, V., Gutow, L., Thompson, R. C., and Thiel, M. (2011). Microplastics in the marine environment: A review of the methods used for identification and quantification. Environmental Science &Technology 46, 3060-3075. doi:10.1021/es2031505
[iii]  Andrady, A. L. (2011). Microplastics in the marine environment. Marine Pollution Bulletin 62, 1596-1605. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul2011.05.030
[iv]  Obbard, R. W., Sadri, S., Wong, Y. Q., Khitun, A. A., Baker, I., & Tompson, R. C. (2014). Global warming releases microplastic legacy frozen in Artic Sea ice. Earth’s Future 2, 315-320. doi:10.1002/2014EF000240
[v] Obbard, R. W., Sadri, S., Wong, Y. Q., Khitun, A. A., Baker, I., & Tompson, R. C. (2014). Global warming releases microplastic legacy frozen in Artic Sea ice. Earth’s Future 2, 315-320. doi:10.1002/2014EF000240
[vi] Andrady, A. L. (2011). Microplastics in the marine environment. Marine Pollution Bulletin 62, 1596-1605. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul2011.05.030
[vii] Andrady, A. L. (2011). Microplastics in the marine environment. Marine Pollution Bulletin 62, 1596-1605. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul2011.05.030
[viii] Mato, Y., Isobe, T., Takada, H., Kanehiro, H., Ohtake, C., & Kaminuma, T. (2001). Plastic resin pellets as a transport medium from toxic chemicals in the marine environment. Environmental Science &Technology 35, 318-324.

Microbeads happen, a sewer eye view of Microbead filtration.

When lathering in the shower, people rarely thinks of where the soap and water go. Even less thought goes to the little beads of plastic so popular in modern soaps. Portland, Oregon's shower water flows through some serious concrete tubing and into the Headworks of the Columbia Boulevard Treatment Plant. This waste is then divided into smaller channels that help divide out solid waste and coarse grit. So where in all this are those little micro beads?

Fluorescent colored microbeads have a density of 1.00 g/cm3, water has the same density of 1.00 g/cm3. Those little happy bubble beads mix in everywhere, like a cool kid at a party. Stage one Headworks does nothing to stop these little beads. 

On to the Primary Clarifiers.

The Columbia Boulevard Treatment plant has eight sedimentation tanks that can process up to 275 million gallons a day. They do this by cleaning two layers of the sewage; the very top, all the bubbles from the shower; and the very bottom, all the little nasty bits you were washing off. This is done with skimmers and paddles that separate out oils and lighter than water liquids, and heavier than water sludge.

Microbeads, floating throughout the fluids, are left behind. The beads settle in the middle of the mix. Stage two does nothing to stop these little beads.

From here the Microbead party heads over to the Oxygen Bar in the form of Aeration Tanks. These tanks are filled up with microorganisms that endless eat biomass waste. Like some kind of monster from a 1980’s horror film that feed on organic pollutants. The do this at a rapid pace when immersed in a oxygen environment. These little microbes are less than a micron in length, meaning they are roughly the size of those tiny soapy beads. They also have no interest in eating little colored microbeads.

At this stage the microorganisms, high on oxygen, party on. They do this with the little floating colored beads. The party comes to a crashing halt as it moves from the high oxygen tanks and into the Final Clarifiers. Without the constant supply of oxygen, the microbes all party to death and drift down into the bottom of the sludge. This stage uses the same approach as the sedimentation tanks. The tanks skim the top, like a kid stealing frosting off a cake, and they sweep the dead microbes back to the aeration tanks, because that oxygen bar runs on microbe flavored Soylent Green.

The microbeads now take a two mile trip through the disinfecting process and complete their journey by being dumped into the Columbia River.

Wait…Wasn’t this story about how they get cleaned out? If sewage treatment doesn’t deal with them who does?

Unfortunately, no one. There is, however, a silver lining.

Microbeads are becoming targets for legislation that blocks their use in cosmetics. Society should jump on board the ban bus, but you my humble reader are the real solution. The best method is to stop using them. Get an app, look for poly-something or other on your soap labels. If you are an Oregon resident support HB 3478 A, a ban on microbeads in personal care products.

  • Fendall, L. S., & Sewell, M. A. (2009). Contributing to marine pollution by washing your face: Microplastics in facial cleansers. Marine Pollution Bulletin58(8), 1225-1228.


Tiny Plastic Problems: An Introduction

Tiny Plastic Problems: An Introduction

There is a threat right now floating in our oceans, flowing in our rivers and circling your shower drain. Synthetic polymers are ending up in cosmetic products lips stick, beauty cream and body soap are littered with Micro-beads. These beads are made up of polyethylene (PE), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyporoylene (PP), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and nylon. Once these little beads go down the drain the end up in the sewer. From there, just like all the other unmentionable horrors we flush each day, they  get filtered out right?


Researchers Fendall and Sewel (2009) found that consumer cosmetic Micro-beads are usually found to be less than 250 micrometers. The average waste screening is broken into two steps, a coarse screening that captures particles greater than 4 millimeters and a fine screening process that catches particles from 1.5-6 millimeters. A micrometer is a one-one thousandth of a millimeter. Not only can Micro-beads pass these filters, they can do it four beads wide.
Micro-plastics CC licensed by
So where do these beads end up? 

As a Portland area resident these beads end up flushed out into our waterways. Portland Environmental Services' website says that every minute fifty thousand gallons of treated waste water are dumped right into the Columbia River, then into the ocean.

I’ll be taking a deeper look into the nastier side of Portland's waste management as we dig deep for these plastic pearls. For now do what you can by going to “Beat the Beads”. Where you can get an applet that gives you scanner on your phone that can detect micro-beads in cosmetics. It's not a science fiction device, it just scans product codes using your camera.

Thanks for reading Planeteers, the power is yours.


  • Fendall, L. S., & Sewell, M. A. (2009). Contributing to marine pollution by washing your face: Microplastics in facial cleansers. Marine Pollution Bulletin58(8), 1225-1228. 


Possible new method to dealing with plastic pollution?

Researchers at Stanford have recently discovered that in the gut of the mealworm, there are bacteria that are capable of digesting polystyrene foam, a plastic that was previously considered to be indigestible. The bacteria are able to convert the plastics into mostly CO2 similar to how normal food digestion takes place. While the mealworms do not eat the plastic compounds preferentially, there is also additional research being done to isolate the bacteria responsible for the digestion of the plastics from the mealworm gut. It is suggested that the bacteria responsible is a member of the genus Exiguobacterium, a fairly diverse group that lives in many different environments and conditions.

This is a fairly good trend for research to be done towards finding ways to clean up plastic waste as plastic pollution is becoming a bigger issue as time passes by as the amount of plastic that ends up back in the environment is increasing over time.

Why microbeads?

Amidst the fervent tide of opposition and sweeping legislation, Americans will soon be approaching a consumer market devoid of products containing microbeads. Their wanton destruction has been long documented by various environmentalists and scientists who have been pushing for their banning for years now. Given the information and pictures we’ve all seen of microbeads’ destruction to the environment, one has to question why companies even chose to use microbeads in the first place.

In a statement issued by P&G, Crest’s parent company, polyethylene microbeads are considered harmless to our health. The polyethylene is an FDA-approved food additive that shows no inherent risks to those that use it (although several dentists have mentioned microbeads getting stuck in gums and causing dental issues, much akin to a splinter stuck under the skin).

Microbeads were included in toothpastes due to positive feedback received from consumers, but dentists are saying the only caveat to having microbeads in the toothpaste is purely for aesthetic value. Trish Walraven, a dental hygienist, states, "They were added to provide color — to make you go, ‘Oh, my toothpaste is really pretty. They provide no scrubbing action. They provide no dermatological or dental benefit. And because microbeads are plastic (made primarily from polyethylene and acrylates copolymer), they don’t degrade.”

Although microbeads appear harmless to us, the effects they have on our environment is tremendous. Just think: trillions of microbeads have been released into natural habitats where they disrupt natural patterns and make their way back to our plates, health risks included. And why?

Well, because microbeads look pretty cool.


Reddit responds to the banning of microbeads

Today, The Guardian announced that the US government will be banning the usage of microbeads in a historic piece of legislation called the Microbead Free Waters Act. Starting July 1, 2017, microbeads will begin to be phased out of personal care products as a means to help prevent further pollution in our lakes and oceans. With this bill rolling out, it’s curious to see how people perceive microbeads and whether or not they understand the environmental effects these little beads have. Below are some of their responses found in a recent Reddit thread.

User budgiebum was taken aback by the large-scale effects of such tiny plastics stating, “Yeah I thought they were like... little scrubbers to exfoliate the skin within the soap to double scrub your skin and that they dissolved. I feel bad for using soaps with them now.”

User tatertatertatertot is happy with the change and is celebrating the government’s initiative to keep our environment clean: “I am happy that small, but fairly substantive and meaningful, policies like this still manage to get through Congress with bipartisan support. And that not everything becomes like that 'feds are confiscating our light bulbs' fight because of posturing or corruption.
This is a good regulation/law, and it's actually going to be passed. Glad it still happens sometimes.”

User whollyhemp is an owner of a soap/skin care company and helps give us insight into the perception of microbeads in the personal health product atmosphere: “It's about time. I own a soap/skin care manufacturing company and from day one I refused to use these plastic microbeads. Everyone else in the industry saw absolutely no problem with flushing environmentally destructive plastic beads down our drains, and for the longest time us bead ban proponents were seen as crazy hippies.
When you hear these companies say 'recent reports show that these beads are destructive' they are lying. Industry leaders have known for years the damage done by microbeads, and I'm not talking about some crackpot hippie blog, there were articles and studies about the dangers and destruction of microbeads going back years and since money trumps all, the companies just feigned ignorance and continued to pump out these products.
Even now, in my home state of CA which just passed a [statewide] microbead ban, companies are allowed to continue manufacturing and selling these products over the next year.
Because while we recognize they are doing irreversible damage to the environment, I guess their potential profitability and the need to deplete stock/inventory is more important than clean water.”

Last, but not least, user challenge4 stated the most obvious question we've all been asking ourselves: "Who was the ***hole who thought putting trash in soap was a good idea?"

For readers interested in purchasing personal hygiene products that refuse to incorporate microbeads, Robert Lestak runs an online shop called Wholly Hemp utilizing natural ingredients in an array of products ranging from sea salt shower scrubs to pink grapefruit soap. His shop can be found here

All users have been contacted to use their comments in this post. Any persons declining to be quoted will have their comment and contacts removed. 


Microbeads and Potential Successors

     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 ( and

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.


References (images):

Thursday, December 10, 2015

BEAT THE MICRO BEAD - Plastic Soup Foundation & The North Sea Foundation

Our creativity for solutions involving the environment are more often produced from documented facts and government protocols. I think it's safe to say that through our modern technology, our ability to cast a wider communication net. 

I think the tool of music and in particular rap music, is a framework of creativeness that could be viewed as representational re-description. Though simple, and at times not very rhythmic, Captain Charles Moore uses music and rap as a way to attract the message to possibly a younger generation. 

Developing a social consciousness on environmental issues is a process of creating resonance with as many age groups and racially diverse populations as possible.