Beauty Store Business

AUG 2016

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Page 25 of 139

24 August 2016 | you rinse immediately off your body. A wrinkle cream, even though it'll even- tually come off in the shower, is not considered a rinse-off; so it's not yet covered by the law. What about the impact of these microbeads on the environment as well as on the human body? No one has studied the impact of micro- beads specifically in terms of the human impact. This issue is so new. But we do have ample research on the impact of microplastics on the food chain, and microbeads are one form of microplastics. In the last few years alone, scientists have detected microplastics or nano- plastics in plankton, in the circulatory system of bivales, in honey, beer and sea salt, and even plastic microfibers on the surface of the human lung. Back to microbeads: Something inter- esting we learned from dentists is that they were finding beads lodged in peo- ple's gums—which is definitely gross. Also, because you're brushing your teeth with them, invariably you're going to ingest some. Who knows how many peo- ple have swallowed microbeads in their toothpastes? Does this have any impact? In terms of potential human-health impact, I would bring that back to the food chain. One of our colleagues, Dr. Sam Mason of SUNY Fredonia, has done some research on fish in the Great Lakes and found microplastics in their stom- achs. Now, what impact that might have on humans or fish eaters, that research has not yet been done. What are some of the alternatives that manufacturers and consumers could be using in place of microbeads in their various products? There are the usual suspects, the common ones that you would see: jojoba beads, ground-up apricot kernels, ground-up walnut shells, sand, sugar, salt—really anything that's slightly abrasive. I've heard people talk about ground-up pumice as a potential. So those are the ones that come to the top of my mind. But I know, as we speak, there is research and development being done all over the world, I'm guessing, on other replacements for plastic microbeads. There was a bit of an issue around the time of the legislation passing. There was a big divide between what some of the industry partners were looking at in terms of bioplastic, and what the nongov- ernmental organizations/community was pushing for, which was no bioplastic. May we talk about bioplastics? Bioplastics refer to plant-based materials used to make plastic. You've probably seen corn-based polylactic-acid bioplastics. There are two main kinds of bioplastic. There's PLA and PHA (polyhydroxyalkano- ates). PLA is not marine degradable, whereas PHA has been shown to be marine degradable. So there was a lot of discussion between the NGO com- munity and the industry about this bio- plastic issue. Industry didn't want to limit the potential innovation around a new kind of material that could potentially be marine degradable. The NGO com- munity had a lot of concerns about this because there aren't yet any standards for marine degradability of bioplastic and whether or not they break down in six months or nine months. We, the NGO community, felt that no residence time of a plastic material should be acceptable in the ocean environment; because the moment plastic hits the ocean, it begins absorbing contaminants, such as flame retardants, oil from cars, pesticides, and other hydrocarbons. All these chemicals that flow into the ocean stick to plastic at potentially high concentrations, and those contaminants can get into the food chain when organisms eat those microplastics. We imagine that you've heard manufacturers discuss why they have preferred plastics to some of the natural alternatives. What would you say is their reason for using plastics? I'll give you my answer, and then you might get a different answer. What we've heard is that they are uniform in size. They don't really damage your skin because they're round and smooth. So you can use them frequently—more frequently than you would be able to use other exfoliants that actually do abrade your skin a bit more. If you think about apricot-kernel shells, they really are quite abrasive. And you don't use them more than once or twice a week, tops. With microbeads, you can use those products every single day. They probably don't do a whole lot for your skin; but you can use them frequently without dam- age. They're easy to source, I'm assum- ing, and because they're manufactured and synthetic, a long-term supply can be assured. They hold their form in an aque- ous product. They can come in different colors, and can make the product look attractive or sparkly and different. They mainly seem like marketing advantages, rather than useful advantages. What are some solutions that 5 Gyres would offer to manufacturers and consumers concerning the issues of microplastics and microbeads? First, I'd love to offer a packaging sugges- tion to manufacturers and designers— that we need to begin developing more efficient, recyclable, recoverable packaging, in general; and that the responsibility for designing packaging that won't end up in our oceans and landscapes begins with better design. The onus should not be placed on the public, but rather on the private sector for this design—for both the products/packaging and for the systems of recovery. This is the concept of extended-producer responsibility. It's been slow to catch on in the United States, but there are great examples from Europe of systems that are work- ing. One of our partners here in the "Plastic pollution flows into our oceans from every continent in the world." Images courtesy of The 5 Gyres Institute

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