As the 65th Miss Universe beauty pageant slated in the Philippines nears, a local environmental group urged candidates from around the world not to use or endorse personal care and cosmetic products (PCCPs) containing plastic microbeads, a global ocean pollutant.
Through a press statement, the EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watch group, asked pageant contenders to lend their voices to amplify the mounting demand to protect the oceans and aquatic life from the adverse effects of microplastic pollution.
Plastic microbeads and other plastic ingredients are used in varying proportions in a variety of PCCPs such as exfoliating scrub, facial cleanser, shower gel and toothpaste, to name a few.
“Today’s beauty queens are known advocates for environmental, health, humanitarian and cultural causes. As known consumers and promoters of PCCPs, we call upon them to add the removal of microplastics in PCCPs in their list of advocacy issues for a healthier planet,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
“By taking a stance in favor of plastic microbead-free PCCPs, beauty queens could sway manufacturers to voluntarily replace microplastics with biodegradable exfoliating agents that will pose no risk to ocean health,” she said.
“A wide array of people speaking out against plastic microbeads could also motivate regulators to act,” she added.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), “for the last 50 years, microparticles of plastic, called microplastics, have been used in PCCPs, replacing natural options in a large number of cosmetic and personal care formulations.”
“Washed down the drain, those particles cannot be collected for recycling, nor do they decompose in wastewater treatment facilities, inevitably ending up in the global ocean, where it fragments and remains,” UNEP said.
Last year, researchers from RMIT University in Australia and Hainan University in China revealed “that up to 12.5 percent of the chemical pollutants on the microbeads can pass into the fish that eat them.”
“These extremely tiny plastic particles from PCCPs can act like sponge, absorbing toxic pollutants in the oceans, which are ultimately ingested by fish and other aquatic animals who mistake microbeads for food,” Lucero said.
“Plastic microbeads from PCCPs are aggravating the alarming ‘plasticization’ of our oceans,” she pointed out.
According to UNEP, over 299 million tonnes of plastic were produced worldwide in 2013 some of which made its way to our oceans, costing approximately US$13 billion per year in environmental damage to marine ecosystems.
“Once in the ocean, plastic does not go away: it fragments, eventually breaking down into smaller pieces known as secondary microplastics,” UNEP said.
“Taking action now against plastic microbeads in PCCPs, reducing plastic bag use and preventing the spillage of plastic waste into the oceans are essential steps that must be undertaken to stem the tide of microplastic pollution, which could have a devastating impact to ocean health and food security, especially in fish-eating nations like the Philippines,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.
On Monday, the EcoWaste Coalition, in observance of the Zero Waste Month, will submit a letter to the Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration urging the government to prohibit the production, importation, distribution and sale of PCCPs containing plastic microbeads within a reasonable timeframe.