Microbead ranking: industry disarray shows need for political ban, says Greenpeace

Publication date: 20th July 2016

A new Greenpeace report has ranked the world’s 30 biggest cosmetics and personal care companies on their commitment to tackling the issue of microbeads in their products.

The report, compiled by Greenpeace East Asia, paints a picture of an industry in disarray: with some companies virtually ignoring the issue and others suggesting limited action.

‘When it comes to dealing with microbeads, companies are all over the shop,’ said Louise Edge, Senior Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace UK. ‘These are the world’s biggest cosmetics and personal care companies, and not one of them has an acceptable plan to stop the use of microbeads. It’s clear there needs to be political action now to ban microbeads outright.’

While some companies have scored higher in the ranking because they have recognised that the use of microbeads is a serious environmental issue and pledged to phase out their use, not a single company has a commitment that covers all types of plastic across all of their products. The result is that all of these companies will be pouring plastic into our oceans for the foreseeable future.

Microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic used in a range of household products, including cosmetics, toothpastes and detergents. They are so small (under 5mm) that they bypass sewage filtration systems and go straight into the sea, where they can attract toxic chemicals and be consumed by marine life.

Louise Edge continued:

‘These plastics go straight down our drains and into the sea. There they can cause serious harm to marine life by being eaten and leaching out toxic chemicals. They can even travel up the food chain and end up in the seafood on our plate – the health consequences of which are still unknown. The UK Government has already said it agrees that a ban on microbeads is the right way forward. The new Environment Secretary, Andrea Leadsom, has some big challenges ahead of her, but banning microbeads would be a simple and effective way to hit the ground running.’



See here for the full report.

UK companies ranked are:

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), which owns brands including Sensodyne toothpaste, ranked fifth from bottom in the survey, due to its restrictive definition of microbeads and its failure as yet to adopt a formal and transparent commitment to phase out their use.

Reckitt Benckiser, which owns brands such as Dettol and Vanish, placed in the top half of the table. But Reckitt Benckiser’s commitment to phase out microbeads doesn’t cover all types of plastics or all of their products.

Greenpeace East Asia consulted Fauna & Flora International on expected good practice with respect to corporate commitments to ending microplastic ingredient use.

For more information, interviews and comments, contact:

Luke Massey, Press & Communications Officer, luke.massey@greenpeace.org, 07973873155​