Microbeads are tiny bits of plastic – ‘microplastic’ – included in a number of cosmetics toiletries and household products like face scrubs, shower gels and toothpaste.
They have been turning up inside marine creatures, causing worry both about damage to the creatures themselves and about their making their way up the food chain to humans.
Although governments are starting to take some action on microbeads, it is still pretty paltry.
In 2015 the US passed a bill phasing out microbeads in beauty products, and the UK government has just launched a consultation on their plan to follow suit, with the aim of introducing legislation by October 2017.
However, in both cases the proposed legislation is only partial. It is limited to personal care and cosmetic products, while microbeads are also found in other household items, particularly cleaning products like washing powders.
It is quite possible to make cleaning products without using microbeads. Tesco is phasing out microbeads from all of its own brands and, as Greenpeace points out, if Tesco can do it then it’s surely possible for the rest of the industry to do the same.
What to do as a consumer
In July 2016 Greenpeace rated the 30 largest global personal care and cosmetic companies on their commitment to phasing out microbeads. Those rated in our beauty and cleaning product guides are listed below: