• by: Sebastian C


Fun video explaining this-
Microbeads are tiny plastic beads found in many items. They range from toothpaste to face cream.
What's the big deal?
Microbeads are microscopic, hence the name. They get flushed down the drain and can't be collected at water treatment plants. They then end up in the ocean. Then, the microbeads find their way into oceanic life, whether it being from food or from accidental consumption.
They end up in the wildlife's digestive tract, and then the animal dies.
If you look at fish, if it gets into the animals digestive system and then caught by fishermen, you might be eating microbeads with your sushi.

Plastic Microbeads 101
What are plastic microbeads?
Microbeads are really tiny plastic particles usually smaller than two millimeters. The composition of microbeads can vary and often include polyethylene (PE) or polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethlyl methacrylate (PMMA) or nylon. Bottom line, it’s all plastic!

What products contain plastic microbeads?
Plastic microbeads are in face soaps, body washes, and even toothpaste. They have sometimes been included in “age-defying” makeup (yes, filling in wrinkles with plastic dust!), as well as lip gloss and nail polish. Most wastewater treatment doesn’t filter out microbeads, and they get discharged into waterways.[1] As a result, micro-plastic particles are found in bays, gulfs, and seas worldwide, as well as inland waterways.[2]

Does microbead pollution impact us?
Could the plastic you’re washing your face with end up in your sushi? Crazy, but yes. Fish species that humans harvest for food have been known to eat micro-plastic particles at an alarming rate and the toxins absorbed in those plastics transfer to the fish tissue.[3]

Plastic microbeads absorb persistent organic pollutants (long-lasting toxic chemicals like pesticides, flame retardants, motor oil and more) and other industrial chemicals that move up the food chain when the toxic-coated beads are consumed by fish and other marine organisms. A single microbead can be up to a million times more toxic than the water around it![4]

How do I know if I’m washing my face or brushing my teeth with plastic?
Most people have no idea that those little beads are actually bits of plastic! In the United States, The Food And Drug Administration (FDA) requires that if a product contains microbeads the company has to list the ingredients. Not all countries require this, but many producers list their ingredients anyway. If you see any of the following ingredients: polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate or polymethyl methacrylate you’re cleaning up with plastic and being duped into contributing to plastic pollution in the environment—yikes!

What’s happening to put a stop to plastic microbeads?
In 2015, the United States enacted federal legislation to ban microbeads (woot!). The Story of Stuff Project led a coalition of over 100 groups to push back on industry-sponsored state legislation and ultimately succeeded. Currently, other countries including Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and many others are considering microbead ban legislation as well.

Why can’t you just replace the microbeads with bio-degradable plastic?
Biodegradable plastics require an industrial scale composting facility to get the plastic really hot so it can degrade as intended. Since plastic microbeads are designed to wash down the drain, they simply won’t break down (not the mention the myriad other issues with bioplastics).

Why won’t the personal care products industry swap the plastic out for a natural substitute?
This question is kind of hard to answer because (surprise!) industry isn’t being real forthcoming about why they want to substitute one kind of plastic for another. What we’ve gathered here at Story of Stuff HQ from talking to these sneaks, is that companies want to keep the plastic in their products because it’s cheap and easy to source. But more importantly, plastic microbeads are smoother than natural alternatives like apricot shells, jojoba beans, and pumice. Why is smoother “better”? Smoother means these cleansers will be less effective at exfoliating, which means you can use them every day, which means they want you to buy more of their Stuff!

If you have read this far, thank you!
Sign to END microbeads!

Update #22 years ago
After 9 days, we already have 192 supporters! Way to go!
But, we need more. Companies are already putting in more of these toxins.
Microbeads are currently banned in Australia, New Zeland, and Canda. But why not the US?
I challenge you to share this petition with 3 people. Tell them to share it with 3 more. Then, have them write "A person told me to sign this" with the name of that person.
Update #12 years ago
Thank you for signing my petition about Microbeads! If you would like to save more wildlife and the environment through Care2 petitions, visit If you want a faster way, go to
Right now, right this second, I challenge you to share this petition with everyone you know on social media including #microbeadAAEPS.
You know you can do it.
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