The Microbeads and the Deep Blue Sea

It’s a curious realization when something you would have probably thought very little about, but perhaps on occasion and quickly considered benign, turns out to be a pretty nasty environmental pollutant. It’s an odd reveal because it’s almost instantly obvious how a novel solution for modern living, when dispensed with, is accumulating somewhere and becoming an increasing environmental menace to something.

It happened with CFC’s in the 1980’s. Back then it turned out these man-made coolants for our fridges were making their way out of the kitchen and into the sky, and once there very ably destroying the layer of gases in the atmosphere that protected us and every living thing from the more dangerous rays of the sun. And now it’s happened again.

The offending items: Microbeads

The offending items: Microbeads

You know those facial washes used in the shower, well the clever little exfoliant beads they’ve added for the last number of years, turns out they are a serious pollutant of our seas. In every bottle you can get tens of thousands of the little plastic pollutants.  And with millions of bottles being sold every week, the numbers of these microbeads entering the sea quickly becomes eye-wateringly large.




Essentially this  Beautifully illustrated by Steve Greenberg

Essentially this  Beautifully illustrated by Steve Greenberg

The problem is waste water treatment plants are not designed to filter out the tiny microbeads and that means free passage to join the great oceanic cluster of plastic already disturbingly large.  All sorts of sea creatures absorb or eat these microbeads,  big fish eats the little one and all the way up the food chain to where the lovely fillet of Plaice on you plate may now contain these plastic pollutants.

They’re not biodegradable and they are effectively impossible to remove from the ecosystem once there. So we need to stop using these beads today.

microbeads bad for ocean cartoon

Not good for fish  Image belongs to Adam at Buffalo news

How can this problem be solved?

Just one step to follow: Download the Beat the Microbead App. Two Dutch NGO’s set up this app that allows consumers to scan personal care product to check for the presence of plastic microbeads. How it works is really simple: The App will read the bar code, and indicate – using colour coding – whether microbeads are present in the product:

  • Red: This product contains microbeads;
  • Orange: This product still contains microbeads, but the manufacturer has indicated it will replace in a given timeframe or adapt the product accordingly;
  • Green: This product is free from plastic microbeads.

For the sake of the oceans and your own health, get this App.

The App: Get.beatthemicrobead.org

The Website: Beat the Microbead

About the Author

Daniel Farrell
Interested in all things on the Irish coast and sharing the best of it. // Email: Daniel@coastmonkey.ie // Follow on Twitter: @DanielsSeaViews