Microbeads are polyethylene or polypropylene microspheres used commonly in personal care products around the globe. In recent years however, awareness is being raised about their impact on health and the environment, particularly in the pollution of waterways. Most wastewater plants are not equipped with the filtration devices to filter out these extremely small microbeads, so they end up in local waterways and have become the number one source of plastics pollution in water bodies like the Great Lakes. To date, nine states and several other counties have already begun to restrict sales of products containing microbeads. The European Union and Canada are working towards broader bans against the products as well, but Norway is the only country thus far to pass a nationwide ban. These sorts of bans influence companies to phase out the use of microbeads in their products and should be encouraged more broadly across the U.S. to stop further pollution of our waterways.
This is an image of a plastic microbead from a facewash, taken via scanning electron microscopy; it is about 0.5mm wide. Microbeads are used for their exfoliating properties; many people don’t even know they are there. The major problem is they wash down the drain, pass through sewage works and into the sea and are ingested by marine animals.
University of Exeter from United Kingdom - Andrew Watts Face to Face with Plastic