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ISSUE 23 ARCHIVE - PLASTIC MICROBEADS

Alice Tittley, Olivia Trace, Helen Warburton,

Hi! We are Alice, Olivia, Helen and Theresa and we are currently in year 10. This all began when we decided to focus our bronze CREST project on the features of exfoliating face washes and it quickly became something more. After finding out how damaging plastic microbeads were to the environment, and also how little the general public are aware of the issue, we decided we needed to spread awareness about the problems involved with the use of those microbeads in order to try and prevent further damage being done to the oceans.

We tend to believe the sea is pure and pristine. Enchanting and mystical. Something to be cherished and explored. But what most don't know about is the sheer amount of damage we cause to the sea. Every year eight million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean - pollution so significant that at the current rate, by 2050, the weight of plastic in the ocean will far exceed that of fish.

A recent study showed that 90% of all sea birds have plastic in their stomachs. This plastic, once consumed has severe consequences; internal bleeding, starvation and eventual death. The WDC (Whale and Dolphin Conservation) estimates that one million seabirds die this way annually. And it is not just sea birds that are affected; it is estimated that over 650 marine species are affected by plastic pollution. Even molluscs such as mussels and oysters ingest and retain tiny beads of plastic and these plastic microbeads can have a massive and devastating knock-on effect: once released into the ocean, they are an immediate source of toxicity, carrying and spreading harmful chemicals such as phthalates (which has been linked to breast cancer, reproductive failures and metabolic problems).

Once consumed the beads release the chemicals into the stomach and "can wreak havoc on the hormone systems of mammals, including whales" say experts. A discouraging truth confirmed by the 100,000 mammals that die each year due to plastic pollution; a tragic consequence of the plastic-coated toxins. This is due to the knock on affect these microbeads have on food chains where toxins build up to lethal doses in top predators- all the way from the minuscule plankton to colossal whales.

If this horrible destruction is allowed to continue then this serious global environmental issue will only worsen. The ocean isn't invincible. If we keep hitting it this hard, one day it won't bounce back and there will be no more dazzling ocean seas to visit or explore and no intriguing marine fauna to discover. If we want the oceans to survive we need to rescue it before it's too late. Whilst we ourselves cannot solve all of the problems surrounding pollution in the ocean, we can assist on a smaller scale which in the long run could seriously reduce the amount of plastic pollution we cause each year.

The plastic microbeads found in cosmetics and products such as shaving gel and toothpaste are death sentences to marine life - acting as vectors for toxic chemicals- yet trillions of them are washed into our oceans each year. Why? Simply put, it's because water treatment plants aren't equipped to deal with them. The majority of beads, ranging between 0.001mm to 1mm in size, simply bypass any and all drains in place, running straight into the sea; the few that are extracted are just as damaging, polluting the land through the use of recycled fertilisers. It cannot be allowed to continue.

We need to take this issue into our own hands, whilst manufacturers have agreed to phase out the inclusion of plastic microbeads in exfoliants and scrubs, they have not included oft forgotten products like deodorant and shaving products that also contain the harmful microbeads. The best and easiest solution available is to use products only containing natural, biodegradable microbeads or no microbeads at all. These products have no negative impacts on the environment and as such, could help save the ocean from catastrophe.

The ocean needs your assistance. Save the precious marine life and the beautiful ocean fauna; check the labels of the products you buy or use on beatthemicrobeads.org to find out which products are free of plastic microbeads.

Help us save the ocean!

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