This month is Plastic Free July – a global movement led by the Plastic Free Foundation which fosters community and provides resources and ideas to help millions of people to reduce single-use plastic in their homes, schools and workplaces. As a brand, as consumers and as humans on this wonderful planet, we’re definitely behind the movement and reducing the use of single-use items – in particular, ones made from plastic – is really important to us, not just in July. However, we also know it’s not just the plastic we can see that can be an issue. By understanding the different ways plastic is used in our products and how larger pieces of plastic break down (or don’t!), we can feel empowered rather than judged as we make our own decisions. Today we’re delving into the topic of microplastics to enable you to do just that and give you an easy way to identify products that are microplastic-free if that’s right for you.
WHAT ARE MICROPLASTICS?
Microplastics are small particles of non-biodegradable plastic (less than 5mm in diameter, almost invisible to the naked eye) that pollute the environment and come from a variety of sources. They are found in the air, the ocean, coastal waters, shorelines, ocean seabed, sea surface and soil. Once microplastics enter these ecosystems they are nearly impossible to remove.
Most plastic contains additives aka chemicals that do have potentially harmful effects – such as phthalates which are endocrine disruptors and are linked to some cancers. While there isn’t currently enough evidence on the impact of microplastics on human health, what we do know is that both larger plastic debris and microplastics are already having an impact on the animals we share our planet with. Birds and insects are affected by airborne microplastics while marine animals absorb the microplastics or mistake plastic as food (which then degrades into microplastics), embedding into the animal’s tissues, getting attached to their lungs and intestines, and as a result, damaging their organs and shortening their lives.
- Microplastics primarily get into our waterways from wastewater that comes from our homes, industrial systems and road drainage but also from larger plastic debris that has degraded, left as litter and by commercial boats, such as plastic bags, bottles and fishing nets, dispersed by the wind or tide.
- We use plastic in almost everything at present, so as we move around we shed fibres into the air. Microplastics make up synthetic clothing such as fleece, nylon, acrylic and polyester, so each time we wash our clothes millions of microfibres are released into our washing machines, ending up in our rivers and oceans.
- Microplastics are also ending up in our food and eco-systems. For example, over 90% of salt contains microplastics (Source). Microplastics have also been found to be present in fruit, vegetables, beer, bread, tea, coffee, animal feed and more. In these cases, predominantly, the microplastics in the ocean get picked up by clouds where the rain is formed, falls and is then taken up by the roots of the plants up to the stems, leaves and the crops. However, there is also evidence that microplastics in food can come from indoor dust that settles on our food which we then ingest.
- One of the lesser-known sources of microplastics is in health and beauty products, again which pass through water filtration systems. Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) or Nylon are all microplastic ingredients (synthetic polymers) that can be found in the likes of cleansers, sun creams and toothpaste for their exfoliating properties, used as emulsifying agents or fillers. Amazingly, there are currently over 500 identified microplastic ingredients used in cosmetic products (Source).
LOOK FOR THE ZERO
If you are looking for ways to reduce the plastic in your cosmetic and personal care products, then look for the zero. This certification was created by the Plastic Soup Foundation as part of their Beat The Microbead campaign to provide a guarantee to consumers that the product is 100% microplastic free – meaning there are no microplastic ingredients used. We are delighted to announce that this month, we have been awarded the Zero Plastic Inside certificate and can now proudly display this logo for all Sofia Latif ™ products!
In conclusion, it’s unlikely we’ll be able to completely avoid plastics anytime soon, but every small step forward to refuse, reduce, reuse, repair and recycle has a cumulative positive impact. With the conversation around plastics increasing, we recognise that the information can be confusing and overwhelming. That’s why we’re committed to listening to the experts, being transparent about our own products and providing clarity to help you to make choices from an informed position.
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HAVE YOU TAKEN UP THE PLASTIC FREE JULY CHALLENGE?
We’d love for you to tell us in a comment below!