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Unilever to phase out plastic microbeads from facial scrubs

Marine Pollution


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Unilever to phase out plastic microbeads from facial scrubs” was written by Rebecca Smithers, consumer affairs correspondent, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 9th January 2013 12.08 UTC

UK marine conservation groups are claiming victory after Unilever agreed to phase out miniscule plastic “microbeads” used in its facial scrubs and exfoliators because of the environmental damage they cause.

After a campaign highlighting the long-term danger of the tiny particles to the world’s oceans and natural ecosystems, The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and the North Sea Foundation welcomed the move by Unilever, which is one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of cosmetics and bathing products.

Exfoliation to remove dead skin cells on the skin’s surface is believed to date back to ancient Egypt and is popular as a way of maintaining a healthy and clean skin while unblocking pores. But traditional methods involving the use of loofahs, brushes and pumice stones have gradually made way for dedicated, over-the-counter products containing microbeads and microcrystals made of plastic, which can take years to biodegrade. Instead, they are ending up in oceans where they can damage marine life and get into the food chain. Some products contain alternative ingredients such as crushed apricot kernel or almond shells and grains, jojoba, salt, suagar and sand.

Unilever’s change of policy applies to all its personal care products worldwide although in the UK the main brands involved are Dove and Radox. In a statement it said: “We can confirm that we are phasing out the use of microbeads in all of our personal care products. The issue of plastics particles in the ocean is an important issue and we have reviewed the use of microbeads in our portfolio (both current products and those in the pipeline). We have decided to phase out the use of plastic micro beads as a ‘scrub’ material in all of our personal care products. We expect to complete this phase-out globally by 2015.”

The MCS welcomed the move and said it hoped more companies would follow suit. Sue Kinsey, MCS litter policy officer, said: “Many people don’t realise that the daily facial scrubs and exfoliants they use may ultimately be causing damage to the unique habitats and wildlife around the UK’s coastline. This is because the use of micro plastic beads in such beauty products is widespread, and once we have washed them off our skin the tiny pieces of plastic they contain can drain into our coastal waters via the country’s network of sewers and be eaten by marine wildlife.”

She urged consumers to scrutinise labels and look for natural alternatives such as products containing sand.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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