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Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Just how much plastic do we need in one bathroom?

I came across this campaign today run by The Story of Stuff.

I had no idea until I read this that things like face cream might contain tiny beads of plastic.  These plastic microbeads are abrasive and so are used as an exfoliant, to wash away the dead skin particles.  Yes wash away.  There lies the problem.  These particles are, by design, made to be washed down the drain, which means they are going to end up as pollutants.  Did no one think about that as a problem when they came up with the idea?

Our consumer culture is doing us no favours as well as harming the environment.  People invent these things, without thinking through the consequences for the environment.  That's why it is so important that we help the next generation to see the effect on the environment as being the most important part of any business or product.  'Do no harm' needs to be at the forefront of our minds as we find, develop and trial new things.

I hate the thought that many of us who care about the environment may have been using such harmful products without realising.

It makes me wary of buying any cosmetics.

At the beginning of this year my sister asked me to help her with a clear out of some cupboards.  She said she'd 'got it down to three boxes of odds and ends' that she couldn't face going through and knew that she'd likely have put it all in the bin if she didn't have a zero waste sister!  I sorted through the boxes and found homes for everything - mainly through reuse and recycling schemes run by charities.

But I did bring home a bag full of various cosmetic products - bottles of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel - some half full, some with just a small amount in.  I did suggest to her that she could use these up and then recycle the bottles in the normal curb side recycling collection.

"But I've got a bathroom full of the stuff already!" she protested.

So I said I'd use it up myself.  I used to think I was frugal about making sure I use every bit of a product, even rinsing out the bottle as the last use of it.  The more you use up and the longer you make it last, the better - I think - as all these things take energy and raw materials to make and transport to the end user.  But when I got back home and looked at what I had in my own bathroom, I was dismayed to realise just how many plastic bottles with varying amounts of content I had accumulated.

So, I made a pledge to not buy any more cosmetic products until I have nothing left.  We're now in June, I've bought nothing, yet I still have a whole tub full of cosmetics.  I may well get to the end of the year without buying any more, and when I do finish up my current stock and recycle all those plastic bottles, I'll be thinking very carefully about what I buy in future.

I don't know if the products I already have contain plastic within them.  How do I find out if they do, I wonder?  And if they do… what do I do with them?

All these cosmetics are staying in the plastic tub.  They are coming out one product at a time and being used up before selecting the next one.  I guess that means I can be careful to read what's in them (if I can read the tiny print) but what do I do if I don't like what I find?  It seems I can make no difference now, having bought or acquired the stuff.  It just goes to show how important it is that businesses are ethical and considerate in their research and development, because once something is made - it is sometimes too late to undo the harm.

1 comment:

Claire said...

Ah that's really thought provoking... I had no idea re: the plastic beady things either :-/ !