The 411 on Microbeads

In connection with tomorrow’s #48DaysofBlue challenge, we’re breaking down what microbeads actually are and how they’re impacting our blue planet.

Published June 03, 2015

microbeads

What are microbeads?

Microbeads are the tiny plastic beads most commonly found in personal care products such as body wash, soap, facial scrub and toothpaste. They are listed on labels as polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate or polymethyl methacrylate. Producers often use microbeads in their products because they are cheaper than natural alternatives; however, these plastics beads are generally less effective, causing consumers to have to repurchase more often.

Why are they harmful?

The little beads are small enough to go down the drain and ultimately end up in our waterways. As a result, many aquatic animals mistake the toxic plastic bits for food and eat them. 

What is being done?

Some companies have started to remove microbeads from their product lines and several US states are looking to ban them altogether. For a list of microbead-free products, click here.

How can I help?

Take stand against microbeads by choosing products with natural exfoliators like sugar, salt or jojoba. You can also show support for legislation against microplastics by writing to your local government!


The 411 is a new blog series that addresses complicated issues facing our ocean in four simple ways. Have an issue you’d like us to break down? Email us at social@aqua.org.

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