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July 2, 2014

Beauty Products vs. The Environment: An Indigestible Soup of Plastic. ~ Monica Wells

Flickr Creative Commons

During the last few years, scientists have been warning us about a new kind of danger to the natural environment.

They keep pointing out how the surface of the Pacific Ocean is getting covered with a “plastic soup,” which consists of miniscule pieces of plastic bags, industrial waste, children’s toys and other molecules of plastic garbage.

The plastic soup is being investigated by a French research team that has given a surprisingly accurate name to their project—The Seventh Continent—perfectly capturing the scale of this phenomenon. Judging by its enormous dimensions, it’s easily the biggest aggregation of trash on Earth!

The plastic soup is twice as big as the territory of the United States and it stretches between the Hawaii islands and Japan. What’s worse is that it won’t disappear anytime soon—the degradation of plastic material takes hundreds, if not thousands of years. It’s interesting to note that the Seventh Continent is not detected by satellites—the pieces that make up for this gigantic whole are too tiny.

The only way to understand its immense scale and the danger it poses to nature is to see it directly on the ocean, but that’s something not everyone can do—even sailors avoid this noxious zone of the Pacific.

What kind of danger does the plastic soup pose to the organisms living in the area?

It is immense and varied. Fish and other ocean animals tend to eat the small pieces of plastic, which are not digestible. Scientists have also noted that birds that look for food on the surface of the ocean often suffocate after ingesting pieces of plastic garbage.

Oceanic_gyres

 

It’s estimated that plastic has become a part of the diet of at least 43 percent of all whale and dolphin species, 36 percent of the birds, nearly all the turtles and plenty of fish species.

This way, garbage becomes a part the food chain and, eventually, it lands in our own delicious seafood and fish dishes. If you think this doesn’t concern you because you live on the other side of the globe, you’re simply wrong. Tiny plastic molecules are on the move–even though they’re invisible to the eye, they have been noticed on the Atlantic ocean, as well as on the North Sea.

We all produce tons of garbage, which end up in the digestive tracts of the ocean animals, especially if we ignore the need for trash segregation, use disposable containers and throw away clothes made of synthetic material in regular trash cans instead of specialized ones.

How do beauty products enter the equation?

Even though the recent decades brought substantial changes in the ways in which we treat our waste, there’s still a long way to go when it comes to cosmetic production, which even now relies on harmful substances like poliethylen.

When buying cosmetic products, we should always pay attention to what is written on the label—peelings and toothpastes often include tiny synthetic molecules that work great for removing the epidermis or dental tartar, but they all end up in the waste water.

Sewage plants are unable to detect those miniscule molecules, so they go on to contaminate our ecosystem. To put it plainly—every time you rinse off a conventional peeling gel off your face, you’re contributing to the plastic soup.

Now, it’s fairly easy to clean a beach from plastic bags, for instance, but how do we clean the ocean from things we cannot see?

That’s why it’s in our best interest to use products devoid of those synthetic substances that can contaminate our seas and oceans, which are home to many animals that we like to eat.

All of those synthetics can be easily backed up with alternative, eco-friendly materials that are easily degradable and won’t stay in the ecosystem for too long. Among them are: sand, crushed and ground apricot seeds and nut shells, as well as fine jojoba wax balls.

Using truly natural beauty products for face and body care, we can be sure that our everyday beauty routine doesn’t contribute to the already gigantic mass of plastic soup.

Choosing natural cosmetics, we earn the power to save dozens of plant and animal species.

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Flickr

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Monica Wells