by Morgan Wieziolowski
Widener University Political Science Major
Thousands of plastic micro beads are building up in the great lakes because sewage plants fail to catch them before they reach the lakes. These beads are made of harmful plastics and are slowly accumulating, polluting the water. The high concentrations of these plastics can cause severe damage to the ecosystems at and near the great lakes, damaging fish populations and spreading toxins. These micro beads can be found in common facial and body cleansing products for exfoliation, therefore then end up down the drain and eventually into the water system. Obvious alternatives for these plastics are sea salt and crushed apricot seeds, which are biodegradable. 5 Gyres is a non-profit organization that works to decrease aquatic plastic pollution, and is involved in lobbying for legislation against this kind of pollution. 5 Gyres is also involved in making consumers aware of the damage, and assisting consumers in finding products that do not contain the plastic micro beads. An app for smartphones was even created that can scan products and determine if it contains the beads or not.
Many large companies and corporations that produce these micro beads have already made agreements to the public, and to non-profits to phase out the use of micro beads in their products or stop the use of them all together. This is a positive step forward in the campaign against this pollution but it does not mean that these corporations will follow through with their promises. Legislation is being drafted in Great Lakes’ states to prevent the use of plastic micro beads in facial/body cleansers by companies. A bill or enforcement by the State governments would make even more of a positive impact on the environment. 5 gyres has also joined an international campaign called “Beat the MicroBead” with Stichting De Noordzee of the Netherlands, and the Plastic Soup Foundation to continue with their efforts against these harmful plastics.