Tiny plastic beads used in body wash are polluting the Great Lakes, where they are eaten by fish and other wildlife. Dr. Marcus Eriksen, The 5 Gyres’ Institute Co-founder and Research Director, said this can lead to humans ingesting plastics. "These microplastics absorb pollutants, are eaten by organisms, and enter the food chain, potentially affecting human health."
That's why 5 Gyres, which is dedicated to studying and preventing plastic pollution in the world's oceans, launched a campaign to get the makers of these products to switch from plastic exfoliants to biodegradable alternatives.
So far, three major manufacturers of personal care products have committed to removing plastic beads from their scrubs and body washes. Unilever, The Body Shop and Johnson & Johnson have committed to phasing out micro beads by 2015.
Proctor & Gamble said they will discontinue micro plastics by 2017, but 5 Gyres is pushing the company to move up the deadline. They've launched a consumer petition campaign called, "Get Plastic Off My Face And Out Of My Water Now!"
The micro plastics in body products are particularly problematic because they can't be removed from water by waste treatment facilities. "As for getting microbeads out of lakes, there are no prospects," said Anna Cummins, who is also a co-founder of 5 Gyres. "Just as there are no viable solutions yet for cleaning microplastics out of the oceans. This just underscores the importance of prevention and source reduction."