At Neal’s Yard Remedies, we have never used microbeads in our facial polishes and scrubs – but many conventional brands still do.
Microbeads are microscopic particles of plastic (also called microplastics) used widely in toiletries and beauty products such as toothpaste, shaving cream, shower gel and exfoliating scrubs. Each product can contain thousands of microbeads.
You won’t see them listed on the ingredients label as ‘microbeads’; but if your product contains plastic ingredients like polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) or even nylon it may also contain microbeads.
Microbeads can’t be filtered out in wastewater treatment plants and they are not biodegradable. Once they enter the marine environment, they are impossible to remove. They poison marine animals, pollute the oceans with gender-bending chemicals and, when used in products like toothpaste, may even cause gum disease – the very problem they are intended to solve.
Around 680 tonnes of microbeads enter UK oceans every year, the weight of 90 of London’s classic red Routemaster buses, and the quantity of microbeads currently in our oceans worldwide has been estimated at over 15 trillion – 5 times the number of trees in the world!
We’ve been leading the way in demonstrating that fantastic scrubs don’t need microbeads – Neal’s Yard Remedies was the first UK brand to be certified with the ‘Look for the Zero’ mark, showing that we don’t use plastics such as microbeads as an ingredient in any of our products.
We’ve also been very vocal about the urgent need to remove microplastics from beauty products and today, on World Oceans Day, we’ve joined forces with Pai Skincare, Greenpeople and Botanical Brands to write an open letter to the British Prime Minister David Cameron to encourage him to bring in legislation that would ban the use of microplastics in beauty products. You can read our letter below or download a pdf of it here.
We were also part of a joint petition to ban microbeads that received over 350,000 signatures.
In order to target government policy directly, we submitted evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry into microbeads and were referenced numerous times in its recommendations report.
Following years of hard work by Neal’s Yard Remedies, other likeminded organisations, and thanks to your widespread public support, the UK government has recently announced that it will be banning microbeads from sale and manufacture in the UK by the end of 2017.
But we are not done yet.
We need to keep the pressure up to ensure that – given the hundreds of tonnes of microbeads that get into UK oceans every year – this ban is brought into force as soon as possible, and that it is as robust and comprehensive as possible.
We also want to see other countries in the EU and around the world take similar measures!
Help us spread the word that we need to #BanTheBead; and if you want to learn more about microplastics see the articles on our site:
June 8th, 2016
Rt Hon David Cameron, MP
10 Downing Street
Dear Prime Minister,
It’s not often that businesses call on government to regulate their own industry. This year has seen growing consumer concern over the use of plastic “microbeads” in personal care products, including a petition over 300,000 signatories strong due to be handed in June 8th, World Oceans Day. As businesses operating in this field, we share this concern and believe the time has come for government to step in.
Microplastics are a direct source of oceanic pollution, making their way to the sea from our sinks, toilets and showers after just a few seconds of use. Yet like all plastics, they may last for centuries in our seas and harm marine life.
Removing plastics from personal care products is the most efficient and cost-effective way of stopping this pollution. ‘End of pipe’ solutions through upgrading of sewage treatment plants would be far more costly.
Furthermore, the use of these plastics is unnecessary: environmentally-friendly alternatives exist, and are available at similar cost.
None of our companies use microplastic ingredients for any function in any of our products, and feel that the quality of our products does not suffer due to this absence. We have also found many of our customers are reassured that they are not contributing to the growing problem of microplastic pollution when using our products.
We believe that microplastic beads and particles should never be used in personal care and domestic cleaning products. It is unacceptable for industry to produce products that pollute our oceans when alternatives are readily available.
Unfortunately, many others in our industry have been dragging their feet on this issue. Whilst some have commitments in place, these mostly do not cover all product types and many have long or unclear phase-out targets. We now feel that given the voluntary approach has proven neither comprehensive nor expeditious enough, the government should pursue a legislative route and ban microplastics being used in such products. It would furthermore send a clear message that use of ingredients that have such negative impacts for so little gain will not be permitted.
Susan Curtis, Deputy Chair, Neal’s Yard Remedies
Kim Allan, Managing Director, Botanical Brands
Charlotte Vøhtz, Managing Director, Green People
Sarah Brown, Founder, Pai Skincare
Sign up here to receive regular updates from us