Plastic Free Personal Care – Why You Need to Change Your Routine Now
By Lorraine Dufour
On an average day for me and probably for you too, I’ll get up early in the morning, brush my teeth, and slap on some deodorant. For lunch, I try to eat something healthy like delicious salmon (my kids will eat it too if I tell them it’s trout, hehe). Sometimes on the way home from work, I’ll crank up the tune “Barbie Girl” by Aqua – come on, I’m not the only one who does that, am I?!
So what do toothpaste, deodorant, salmon and my favorite song have in common?
I know it may sound weird but hear me out, because plastic is in more places than you think. The foods and products we put on our bodies can be linked to the life cycle of plastics.
Oh Barbie, life in plastic ain’t so fantastic after all.
The High Price of Plastic In the Ocean
The plastics hiding in our everyday personal care products will most likely end up in the ocean. Often they’re ingested by sea creatures, who are then eaten by bigger sea creatures, such as salmon. That salmon then ends up on your dinner plate, and you enjoy every last bite.
But what you also end up ingesting is plastic, and that certainly wasn’t meant to be on the menu.
The Microplastics World Tour
We all have a pretty good idea of what plastic is, and most of us have heard of microbeads which are a type of plastic. But what the heck are microplastics, and where do they fall within the plastic “family”?
Microplastics are any type of plastic particle that are 5mm or less in diameter. Microbeads are a type of microplastic, and so are nanoplastics, which are even tinier.
Plastic can be made into microplastic. You can find this type of microplastic in your toothpaste or face soap. The problem is that once washed down the drain, they often can’t be filtered by wastewater treatment plants. Many places around the world don’t even have treatment plants anyhow.
This is how they end up in our waterways.
What about bigger pieces of plastic, like containers, that don’t go down the drain?
Yes, some of it gets recycled which is great.
But a lot of it doesn’t.
Poor waste management practices and plastics that aren’t recyclable are some of the factors that contribute to plastic pollution.
8 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year. A lot of this debris breaks down into microplastic by the sun’s radiation, wind, or the ocean itself.
It doesn’t disappear or biodegrade, it breaks up into smaller bits that pollute our oceans for hundreds of years. That’s where the real danger lies.
The oceans may all have different names, but they’re all connected. Plastic that’s tossed in a river in India can find itself (as microplastics) in the seafood you eat, or the water you drink.
You see, the use of plastics and the pollution it causes isn’t only a local problem, but a global one that affects us all.
Health Hazards up Ahead
The full effects of microplastics on human and animal health are still being studied. But we do know that some chemicals and heavy metals used in making plastics are carcinogens. Microplastics in the ocean absorb toxic compounds found in seawater.
Sea creatures mistaking microplastics for food are then poisoned by the leaching toxins. The different marine animals ingesting these microplastics are in grave danger. And so is the entire food chain above them, including us.
Because microplastics are tiny, water treatment systems have a hard time filtering them. In many parts of the world, people don’t have access to clean drinking water either. Even if you don’t eat seafood, microplastics are found in all types of water supplies, even bottled water. This means other food sources take in microplastics and the nasty stuff that comes with it.
Of course, more studies need to be done to show how bad microplastics are. But it definitely isn’t natural to have plastic in our bodies, is it? How long do we let this stuff accumulate inside of us before we realize how bad it really is? Sometimes it sucks being at the top of the food chain.
Where Microplastics Are Hiding
In 2015, the United States enacted the Microbead-Free Waters Act into law. This law banned the use of microbeads in “rinse-off” personal care products made in or imported to the U.S. Other countries have laws that are similar or tougher.
This is a great step in the right direction and we need to keep going, but we can’t stop there.
Microbeads are only part of the problem that plastic pollution as a whole has become.
Plastic is in so many products now it would surprise you. Even if microbeads aren’t in “rinse-off” products, it doesn’t mean others are plastic free.
Products can have other microplastics that aren’t microbeads, or that are “leave-on”. Think lipstick, sunscreen, hairspray, anti-wrinkle creams, and much more.
Of course, this doesn’t count the plastic packaging that products come in.
Sure, many plastics are now labeled as recyclable, but how much of it gets recycled is another story. Considering the millions of tons that end up in the ocean every year, it’s not enough.
We can’t give larger plastics the chance to turn into microplastics in the first place. Once they become that tiny, they’re pretty much impossible to clean up.
How to Live Plastic Free
Is it possible to go plastic free when we’re talking about personal care and beauty products?
Yes, it is!
As the dangers of microplastics become known, plastic free products are more available. A quick Google search and you’ll find options for the plastic free products of yours (and the ocean’s) dreams.
These products won’t have plastics in them or around them as packaging.
If you’re not sure if your products have plastics in them, there’s an app called Beat the Microbead. Sponsored by the UN Environment Programme, it’ll tell you if your fave product has plastic in it. What you find will surprise you.
Watch out for products that say their plastic is biodegradable. This doesn’t mean that it’ll break down in nature any faster than normal plastic. It only breaks down under extreme temperatures in a factory setting, not in nature.
Finding alternatives to plastic and avoiding single-use plastics is completely doable too.
Some companies now use cardboard or paper packaging instead of plastic. They’re replacing microbeads with the natural ingredients that they used decades ago.
We can look as good as Barbie and Ken, but without all that plastic now! These changes are happening because of consumer awareness and demand.
In Pursuit of Plastic Free
Of course, if you do use products with plastic packaging make sure to recycle, upcycle, or reuse it. There’s great ideas online on transforming plastic packaging into something useful again.
Lobbying politicians and companies can have a big impact too. A lot of companies change their way of doing business because they’re afraid of one thing— losing money. Consumer pressure goes a long way in changing a company’s practices. They can’t make money if people aren’t buying products they know are bad for them and the environment.
If that doesn’t work you can always put pressure on politicians. After all, you elected them. Lobby and write to them, demanding that they change laws. The more pressure they feel from the people who elected them, the more they’re inclined to take action.
Educate yourself on where plastics are being used and what dangers they cause. Blogs like the Ocean Blue Project Blog have a lot of useful info to help you educate yourself and others.
The whole world needs to act together to stop the plastic problem. This means that we need to stop using, tossing, and making so much plastic in the first place.
From our personal choices to the laws we still need to change worldwide, every one of us can put plastic in its place.
Ocean Blue Project Teams up With Pioneering Skincare Company “Common Heir”
Plastic lotion bottles piled in the sand along a favorite local beach: It wasn’t the first time they had been confronted with the beauty industry’s plastics problem, but it was the last call they needed to be its solution.
At Common Heir, they believe in a world where the most coveted, trusted, 5-star-reviewed skincare has as much care for our communities and the environment as they do. With over 12 years of combined clean beauty experience, they also knew they weren’t living in it yet.
So now, they’re creating it.
Common Heir transforms your traditions with clean, plastic-free, high-performance skincare — and trust you’ll take it from there.
Their award-winning Vitamin C serum is disrupting the beauty industry by delivering powerful results with zero plastic packaging.
In a proud partnership with Ocean Blue Project, the Common Heir community has helped remove over 2,000 lbs of ocean microplastics since its inception in April 2021.
Common Heir will donate $1 to Ocean Blue Project from every email signup. This is equivalent to removing one pound of microplastics from the ocean.
So what are you waiting for? Join their email list today (and ours!) to help fight plastic pollution.
Author Bio: Lorraine Dufour is a freelance copywriter who loves spending time outdoors with her two young children showing them the beauty of nature, and teaching them the importance of environmental stewardship.