Nearly two-thirds of consumers in the United Kingdom want to ban microbeads, a new Greenpeace survey has found. Too small to be filtered, these tiny plastic pieces end up in the oceans — polluting not just the marine life but also human food sources.
In a Greenpeace survey conducted by Censuswide, researchers talked to 1,000 consumers and found that 68 percent were initially not aware what microbeads are.
When researchers told them about the microbeads ban in the United States, 61 percent of British female and 53 percent of male consumers said they agree to a similar ban. Only about 9 percent said there shouldn't be a microbeads ban in the United Kingdom.
"Ocean plastic does not disappear by itself, so for every bit that ends up in the ocean, means more cleaning up to be done - with much of it impossible to tackle at all," wrote Greenpeace in its blog.
Microbeads found in toothpaste, facial wash, cleaners and other consumer products are typically smaller than 5 millimeters. They are so small that they pass through water filtration systems and end up in oceans where marine life can eat them, enter the food chain and end up in our dinner table.
The dangers are not just exclusive to marine life. A 2015 study found that nine out of ten of seabirds around the world are likely to have tiny plastic pieces in their stomachs.
The United States and Canada already banned the inclusion of microbeads in consumer products. Several companies such as The Bodyshop, Avon and L'Oreal also pledge to stay microbeads-free.
In the United Kingdom, Greenpeace has an ongoing petition to ban microbeads in the country. The petition already has over 260,000 signatures.
"It's incredible how many everyday products contain micro plastic beads. These find their way through our sewers and into our seas where they are easily eaten by all sorts of marine animals," said Dr. Sue Kinsey, the Litter Policy Officer of the Marine Conservation Society that also has its own microbeads ban petition.
Microbeads are often marketed for exfoliation. Natural alternatives include grounded nut shells, oats and salt. Other natural exfoliation techniques include kernels, sugar and even a simple wash cloth.