Update on microplastics that you don't want to miss!

by chelseagiddings on November 25, 2016 - 12:31am

Microbeads are plastic particles that are used in exfoliating personal care products, toothpastes, in biomedical and health science research, and it has recently been declared toxic.  Microplastics do not dissolve and they make their way into oceans, rivers and lakes where they are consumed by a variety of organisms.  It has been causing water pollution and posing environmental hazards for aquatic animals. 

Information was released that in 2014, about 100,000 kilograms of plastic microbeads were imported into Canada for exfoliants and cleansers, while as much as 10,000 mire kilograms were used in the domestic manufacture of personal care products (Staff, 2016).  The federal government has stated that in Canada, microbeads will be banned and effective mid-2018 (Staff, 2016).  There will be new regulations that are under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act that will be prohibiting the manufacture and import of microbeads.  It was stated that in 2014, Canadian manufacturers were responsible for 99 percent of the total amount of plastics microbeads (Staff, 2016).  This relates back to what we have learned in one of our lectures on the issue-attention cycle.  The issue-attention cycle is a cycle that is represented by stage 1) pre-problem stage, stage 2) alarmed discovery and euphoric enthusiasm, stage 3) realizing the cost of significant process, stage 4) gradual decline of public interest, stage 5) the post-problem stage and then it can cycle through again.  Microbeads were at stage 2 of the attention cycle because it was discovered that it was a problem and it began to be a great deal of a topic all over the media.  It also relates back to what we have learned in lecture on what the role of media plays in natural resource management.  Covering an issue in the media can be beneficial to spreading awareness but the problem is that is does not result in delivering long term attention to the issue.  Microbeads has been an increasing issue over years and it is now being looked at to solve.   

My reaction to the article was that it was eye opening to see how microbeads are negatively impacting the environment and to be able to read that there is a solution that is being put forth.  It is good to know that microbeads are now being banned in Canada and actions are going to be implemented to make sure that they follow through.  Hopefully, the actions that are being taken in Canada will spark interest in other countries to do something to stop the environmental effects that microbeads are having all around the world.  It is interesting that it is going to take a while just for the microbeads to be ban but what actions can we take in the meantime?  An action that we can take now is to not purchase any more products that have microbeads in them because we know how harmful they are to the environment. 


Staff. “Plastic microbeads will be banned in Canada, effective mid-2018.” Global News. 04 Nov. 2016. Web. 24 Nov. 2016. http://globalnews.ca/news/3047732/plastic-microbeads-will-be-banned-in-c...      


Hi Chelsea,

I'm so glad that you are bringing attention to this issue. I have used so many products that have microbeads in them- even the body wash I have in my bathroom right now contains microbeads. I heard about this issue when scrolling through facebook and noticed my friend shared an article about the banning of products with microbeads. Personally, I had never even questioned how the these tiny beads could impact the environment until I saw that article. It makes me wonder, how many things I use in my every day life that have potential harms to the environment. It is similar to the palm oil issue; in that so many use products that have been made with palm oil that causes great exploitation of people and the environment. It is alarming how such seemingly small things, can create so much damage.

If I have learned anything, it is to question your purchases. Don't accept things for what they are and if you have any doubts- to always try your best to choose the most sustainably produced products. I am very happy that Canada has taken initiative to ban products with micro beads. I noticed that you said that the ban will not take place until 2018 and you questioned what actions can be taken in the mean time. According to a Globe and Mail Article, that there are 14 Canadian companies that are the heaviest users of microbeads and that 5 of these have already taken initiative to stop using microbeads in their products. I think this is a good start. Boycotting the purchase of micro beads will be a good support in alleviating this issue and will pressure the other Canadian companies to stop using micro beads in the quest to the 2018 ban.

On the topic of the Issue Attention Cycle- I disagree that we will keep cycling through this loop as it seems the Canadian government is taking serious action to resolve this issue, I think it will successfully be a long term solution, as long as they remain strict on the monitoring of its imports. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed this post. Here is a link to the globe and mail article I talked about above http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/feds-label-microbeads-as-to...

As well, for all of you adament to stop using products with micro beads, here is a link to a website that lists products that should be avoided https://onepercentfortheplanet.org/2014/10/a-list-of-products-that-conta...

Hi there,
Great post! I thought your post was well organized and you integrated the class material adequately. I chose to read your post because I recently read an article about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is a massive landfill in the Pacific Ocean, and became very interested in the concerns of ocean degradation. Your post actually gave me more insights about the heartbreaking reality of our ecosystem and made me search a little more about it. I found out that microbeads are not in all bath products but in those that has scrubbing power such as body washes, exfoliators, toothpastes, and other cleansing products. When converted in to numbers, that’s about 100,000 plastic particles going into the ocean every time we take a shower. Fish eat these small particles because they mistake it with fish food. Not only does this harm the marine life but it also affects the food chain system, and thus, the impact comes back to us human. As soon as I learned this, I went to my bathroom to check if any of my products had microbeads in it and unsurprisingly, they did. If I haven’t read your post, I will never know that my daily necessities could bring harm to the environment. Therefore, I think making awareness of its danger is imperative. As you mentioned, media is a great way to increase awareness since many of us use social media, watch/read news, and listen to radio. Additionally, I think informing through education is another approach that can make a change in consumption.

I’m glad that the Canadian government is actually acting towards it and banding the production and import. This regulation tool will for sure mitigate the impact and will bring significant result. However, I think this will not make a difference in removing the particles and making a friendly environment for the marine life because microbeads cannot dissolve in water. What do you think has to be done for this? Personally, I think there is only two solutions: removing with advance technology, or developing some sort of chemical that can melt the microbeads (in a non-harmful way). In any case, it is clear that further research is necessary and it may take years. Hence, I sincerely believe that it is our duty to make changes in our daily life and aim for a sustainable life.

Thank you for sharing this!