When you come across names like polyethylene, polypropylene, poly-e-terephthalate, and polymethyl methacrylate you should know that they basically mean plastic. Other names to look for are: Acrylates copolymer, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, VP/Eicosene Copolymer, VP/Hexadecene Copolymer, Triacontanyl PVP, Carbomer, Dimethicone, Acrylates/C12-22 Alkyl Methacrylate Copolymer, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate, and Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer. These are the ingredients used to create the plastics and microplastics we need to be concerned about.
At this point personal care products containing plastic microbeads have been banned in Canada, the US, and the UK however, seeing as the ban is not universal and is poorly enforced you can still find many products containing them. Do a basic search of the above noted ingredients and you’ll find more than a few in items for purchase in North America. The point is that they haven't been abolished entirely yet so as consumers we need to be aware. Look closely at your personal care products and cosmetics like lipsticks, sunscreens (a big offender), toothpaste, and hair gel. When it comes to damaging our environment and eco-systems, harming both animals and humans, microplastics are no joke.
Some microplastic facts:
- They currently cannot be removed through water treatment filtration systems
- They are prevalent in virtually all of our rivers, lakes, and oceans
- They have been found even in remote areas uninhabited by man, as they are light enough to be carried by winds and rain
- These plastics are not biodegradable, they may break into smaller pieces but they will never go away
- They become increasingly toxic over time by absorbing contaminants
- They have permeated the food chain, passed up from small to large animals, all the way to us humans
- A human consumes in excess of approx 70,000 microplastic particles yearly
- Consuming plastic bottled water could increase that number by 90,000 particles
- Biological effects on humans range from increased inflammation, cellular damage, immune system reactions, oxidative stress, reproductive harm, obesity, cancer, developmental delays in children etc.
- Biological effects on animals from GI, respiratory, endocrine, and lymphatic systems, to altering their environments chemically which alters behavioral responses
What can you do? Be more conscientious about how you use plastic in your day to day life. Avoid the ingredients mentioned above as a start then begin working to reduce your use of plastics altogether.
Simple anti-plastic hacks? Metal or bamboo straws, a reusable coffee cup, refillable water bottle, mesh bags for produce, canvas totes for grocery and shopping hauls, glass containers for storing pantry goods and leftovers. We've also found amazing products like beeswax wraps to replace plastic wrap, silicone bags to replace plastic sealable bags, sponges and scrubbers designed to be washed instead of thrown away. We particularly love the refillable cleaning products (like those from Blueland) and urge you to look for brands who have refill options. The list could go on. It's about the small steps we can each implement to help sort out the mess we’ve created together.
Image by Mauro Grigollo for Stocksy United