Thu, Jul 21, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Greenpeace pushes firms on microbeads phase-out

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

Facial and body wash products containing plastic microbeads are displayed yesterday at a news conference held by Greenpeace in Taipei to warn people not to purchase products with such microbeads, which can enter the food chain and damage the environment.

Photo: Yang Mien-chieh, Taipei Times

While major cosmetic brands have pledged to phase out the use of plastic microbeads, the pollution-causing material can still be found in their products, and their phase-out policies are limited and misleading, Greenpeace Taiwan said yesterday.

The organization said top brands such as Estee Lauder, Chanel, Amway, Kose and LG promised to phase out microbeads, but their promises were conditional.

Some companies did not put forward a phase-out timetable, while others only promised to stop using microbeads in certain products.

“Brands which made those conditional promises are evading their responsibility and deceiving their consumers,” Greenpeace Taiwan oceans campaigner Yen Ning (顏寧) said.

The organization found 11 personal care products marketed by the five companies contained microbeads.

Microbeads are tiny plastic particles that are widely used in exfoliating agents. They are too small to be picked up by sewage filtration systems so they enter the ocean and food chain, causing damage to human health, Yen said.

There are estimated to be as many as 50 trillion microbeads in the ocean, and they can be detected in seafood, the organization said.

However, a survey by the organization found that 65.7 percent of respondents did not know that microbeads were made of plastic, and 57.1 percent did not know the material caused pollution.

Most microbeads in personal care products are made from polyethylene or polypropylene, and long-term application of those materials can damage the horny layer of the face or cause dry skin and sensitive skin, China Medical University Hospital anesthesiology physician Chiu Pin-chi (邱品齊) said.

A European study suggested that microbeads in cosmetics were responsible for adding as much as 8,627 tonnes of plastic waste to the ocean every year, Greenpeace Taiwan said.

Microbeads absorb organic pollutants and they are easily mistaken for food by marine organisms. A Belgian study in 2014 showed that European shellfish consumers ingested between 1,800 and 11,000 microbeads per year.

While the Environmental Protection Administration said it would announce a ban on microbeads next year, the organization called on manufacturers to voluntarily phase out the product and use environmentally friendly substitutes instead.

The organization called on consumers to avoid buying personal care products containing the materials commonly used to make microbeads — nylon, polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate and polymethyl methylacrylate.

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