You hang up the phone. Yes. You’ve got a date. You wash your face with your favorite facial scrub and brush your teeth until they’re minty fresh. You are ready to wow your date. And while you sitting there in the movie theater excitedly thinking, “Did her pinky just touch mine!?” thousands of small plastic spheres are making their way from your sink to the sewage treatment plant and then on to the ocean where they may end up in the gut of small fish, possibly killing the fish. A fish that will never have fish dates.
Okay. That sounds a little dramatic and quite frankly ridiculous. The ridiculous part is the scenario above is possible. Everyday tons of plastic in the form of ‘microbeads’ go down our drains and is eventually dumped into our oceans (treated wastewater is routinely emptied into the waterways; microplastics sneak through). These microbeads are in products commonly found in your bathroom from toothpaste (wait, we’re brushing our teeth with plastic!!!) to facial scrubs (wait, we’re scrubbing out face with plastic!!!) to cosmetics to deodorants (wait, why?) to lotions. To think that brushing our teeth could be killing ocean wildlife seems unbelievable. What’s unbelievable is that despite all of our efforts to stop plastic pollution, we are using tiny plastic beads as abrasives in our products and then sending them down the drain and then into our waters.
Though I study marine life I wasn’t even aware of this as being a problem until I read an article this weekend by two of my colleagues (great job, Emily Darling and Ashley Smyth!). And then found a great article in Mother Jones (both are worth a read).
If you don’t want to read the articles (but you really should!), here is the summary.
-There are microplastics in products you use.
-Those products are washed down the drain and then end up in the environment.
-Those microplastics can kill wildlife.
-To protect wildlife stop using these products.
How do you know which products have microplastics in them? Look for polyethylene as an ingredient – it’s the most common form of microbead plastic (there are others and you can find a list here).
Who knew you could save a whale or turtle or fish by not brushing your teeth? Well, at least not brushing your teeth with plastics.
So go ahead and support Ban the Bead movement and stop using products with microbeads and stop worrying if your dating life is killing the planet. Then you can focus on what’s important. Like wondering if she’ll notice if that you didn’t actually wash your shirt but sprayed it with body spray.