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The true cost of cheap plastic

Updated: Feb 6

Plastic use has become ubiquitous in recent years. It’s a cheap and reliable ingredient that can ensure a healthy bottom line. But at what cost?


Plastic pollution is a global issue that is growing exponentially and has disastrous and wide-ranging consequences. These effects are particularly felt in our marine environments, where they have a direct and deadly impact on marine wildlife.


It’s currently estimated that as much as 5 trillion pieces of plastic debris is floating in the world’s oceans, with a further 1.15 to 2.41 million tonnes of plastic entering the ocean each year through rivers alone!


To get a true picture of the problem, let's consider the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP). The GPGP is one of five main offshore plastic accumulation areas, or gyres, in our oceans and covers an estimated surface area of 1.6 million square kilometres. That’s almost the size of Queensland!



 

Microplastics


One of the most problematic forms of plastics are microplastics. Defined as plastic items less than 5mm in size, they can be particles or fibres.


Microplastics are becoming so ubiquitous that traces have been found in our food, waterways, and drinking water! There are two categories of microplastics:

  • Primary microplastics: microbeads used in face washes, exfoliants and toothpaste

  • Secondary microplastics: fragments from plastic bags and containers, and fibres from synthetic textiles

It's estimated the average person ingests around 2,000 microplastic particles a week, equal to about five grams, or the weight of a credit card!

 

Microbeads


Microbeads are primarily used as an exfoliant, bulking agent, to prolong shelf life, or for the controlled release of active ingredients. They can be found in personal care, skin care, cosmetics - think the small little exfoliating beads found in certain face scrubs or scented exfoliating body wash - and cleaning products.



Image: Harper's Bazaar

They are favoured for use commercially

as they don't dissolve or degrade in water but this very property means that when they're washed down the drain, microbeads end up in our rivers, lakes and oceans.


Due to their small size, they are also unable to be captured by most wastewater treatment systems' filters which results in microbeads making their way into our drinking water!






This is why all Bruny Botanica products are proudly free of microbeads. Our safe and natural alternatives for exfoliation include Bruny Island sand (championed in our Bruny Island Sand Exfoliating Scrubs), colloidal oatmeal (used in our Matcha Masque), and powdered caster sugar (found in our Golden Face Polish).



So what's being done?


Since 2015 the Australian government has been working alongside industry to phase out the use of microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products.


A good way to know if your skincare and cosmetics contain microbeads is by checking their ingredients list. Common microbead ingredients to look out for include:

  • Polyethylene (PE)

  • Polypropylene (PP)

  • Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)

  • Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA)

  • Nylon (PA)



References:

https://www.plasticethics.com/home/2019/5/19/estimate-of-plastic-waste-from-rivers-into-the-worlds-oceans

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-22939-w

https://www.environment.gov.au/protection/waste/plastics-and-packaging/plastic-microbeads


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