Face scrub micro-beads are choking the Great Lakes

Microplastic pollution in the surface waters of the Laurentian Great Lakes, a new paper in the Marine Pollution Bulletin, looks at the prevalence of micro-plastic beads, thought to originate with face-scrub, in the great lakes. These beads pass through water-treatment processing, and have long been suspected in freshwater pollution. The paper has occasioned a pledge from several big cosmetics companies to phase out the use of beads in their products. Five Gyres, an NGO that worked on the paper with SUNY Fredonia, has proposed model legislation banning the use of microplastics in consumer products. In the meantime, they've got an app that helps you find products that are free from microplastics.

The highest abundance measured was 466,000 particles/km2 with an average of 43,000 particles/km2 throughout all the samples. The highest concentrations of micro-plastics were observed in Lake Erie, and accounted for about 90% of the total plastics found. In addition to polyethylene and polypropylene beads found in the samples, there were also particles of aluminum silicate, or coal ash, a byproduct of coal fired power plants.

With these findings, The 5 Gyres Institute launched a Corporate Social Responsibility campaign last year asking the manufacturers of personal care products to pledge to remove these plastic microbeads from their products. Faced with this preliminary evidence, now solidified by the scientific paper's publication in a peer-reviewed journal, many of the companies targeted have agreed to phase out the use of these beads, namely, L'Oreal, The Body Shop, Colgate-Palmolive, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, and Procter & Gamble. Though a tremendous victory for The Great Lakes, 5 Gyres recognizes the need for further engagement. Several states and municipalities have expressed a desire to consider legislation banning micro-plastics as ingredients in consumer products because of their tendency to escape sewage treatment. 5 Gyres is working with a team of advisors to produce model legislation for states to consider.

5 Gyres Publishes First Scientific Paper On Plastic Pollution In The Great Lakes [Stiv Wilson/Five Gyres]

(via Naked Capitalism)