The beauty industry’s use of microbeads, palm oil and plastic is killing the earth

The beauty business is one of the biggest industries in the world, generating more than an estimated $500 billion each year. However, it is also one of the biggest contributors to the deterioration of the earth.

The beauty industry generates a huge amount of plastic each year, only for most of it to end up in landfill sites once it reaches the end of its useful life. Plastic can also trap marine wildlife, causing it to suffocate, and a lot of animals ingest plastic because they mistake it for food. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation predicts that there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050.

On the other hand, there are several companies who are reducing the amount of plastic packaging they use. For example, many cosmetics brands have introduced products with no packaging, such as solid shampoo bars and soap bars. Some companies have even started to sell refillable products, such as refillable shampoo, which will reduce the amount of plastic being used. Moreover, there are companies who have started to produce bamboo toothbrushes, which are much better for the environment than plastic toothbrushes are.

Infinity Foods Shop and Bakery in Brighton sells cruelty-free products that don’t include microbeads, unsustainable palm oil or parabens. A representative at Infinity Foods Shop and Bakery believes that “looking after our freshwater supply is really important” and consumers should start to “buy shampoo bars, soap bars and cleaning bars”. He also states that “the beauty industry produces a huge amount of plastic, where it could be using glass or metal alternatives”.

Many beauty companies have come under fire for their use of microbeads in their products. Microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic that are frequently used in many rinse-off cosmetic products such as face scrubs, shower gels and toothpastes. Their purpose is to exfoliate and deep clean, however they have many harmful effects on the environment and do more harm than good.

Microbeads are not biodegradable, so they will not break down once they go down the drain. These microbeads are so tiny that they can easily enter marine wildlife, and then enter the food chain. They can then store up in the animals and block their digestive system.

Many campaigns, such as Beat the Microbead, have protested for microbeads to be banned, and it worked. Microbeads have been banned in the UK since 9 January 2018, and the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 was introduced in the USA.

Palm oil is an ingredient that is rapidly gaining popularity within the beauty industry and is used in many products that we use every day, such as shampoos, soaps and lipsticks, but it is very controversial because of the negative side effects growing oil palms has on the environment.

The more palm oil is sought after, the higher deforestation rates increase. This also affects the population of orangutans, who spend most of their time up trees.

Parts of rainforests are burned down to make room for oil palms to grow which negatively affects local people and the wildlife who need rainforests to survive. This contributes to a lot of animals becoming endangered. The WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) also reports that burning forests to create more space to grow oil palms emits high levels of carbon dioxide, which is ‘polluting the air and contributing to climate change’.

However, oil palms also provide millions of people with jobs and the WWF states that it also helps ‘the GDP of emerging economies’ to grow. Furthermore, in comparison to other vegetable oils, the WWF reports that palm oil produces more oil per land area and also ‘supplies 35% of the world’s vegetable oil demand on just 10% of the land’.

Therefore, the next time you use a face scrub with microbeads, or buy a plastic toothbrush, you may consider a more environmentally friendly alternative. The switch to a wooden toothbrush or shampoo bars isn’t a big one, however the benefits for the planet and the animals living on it are huge.

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