You’ve heard the bad news about microbeads, right?
These tiny pieces of plastic are often used as exfoliants in a range of personal care and cosmetic products such as face scrubs and toothpastes, and concern has mounted over the impact these microbeads (which are designed to wash down the drain but are too small to filter out during wastewater treatment) could be having on marine wildlife. Some microbeads are visible to the naked eye, but others are as tiny as one micrometre! Conservationists have warned that they can affect fish growth and persist in the guts of mussels and fish that mistake them for food.
According to the UK parliament’s environmental audit committee, a single shower can result in 100,000 plastic particles being washed down the drain, so the UK government has acted and made plans to ban them by the end of this year.
The good news is that Scientists and engineers from University of Bath’s Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies have developed biodegradable cellulose microbeads from a sustainable source which could be used as a replacement. The beads are made from cellulose, (the material that forms the tough fibres found in wood and plants) which is not only from a renewable source, but also biodegrades into harmless sugars.
Scientists say these microbeads are robust enough to remain stable in a body wash, but can be broken down by organisms at the sewage treatment works, or in the environment over a short period of time.
This shows there are great alternatives to plastics out there and we hope to find many more of them in coming years.