THE PLASTIC MICRO-SPHERES IN OUR LIFE

Microspheres are plastic microparticles often used in personal care products, domestic cleaning products and industrial raw material in the production of plastics - pellets, flakes and powdered resin - which are not retained in the wastewater treatment systems putting at risk the aquatic ecosystems.

Microspheres are primary microplásticos often added to products for personal hygiene such as: scrubs, facial masks, shower gel, shaving foam and toothpaste, marketed throughout the world, who are dragged directly from washbasins, bathtubs and showers for the sewerage systems. These tiny spheres are not biodegradable and have such a small dimension that can traverse the filters wastewater treatment and be transported to the water lines ending in seas and oceans where they are impossible to recover, creating significant impacts on the marine environment.

Every year tonnes of microspheres come in seas and oceans becoming a focus for the attractor aqueous toxins. They are often confused with food and ingested by marine organisms, which may accumulate in the food chain, putting risks to human health. There are many studies that demonstrate the damage that these tiny spheres cause to marine ecosystems, and there are already many evidence of its negative effects.

The tiny plastic spheres used in products for personal hygiene are made mainly of polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) and nylon.

In 2012, two Dutch NGOs, the North Sea Foundation and the Plastic Soup Foundation, launched a mobile application that allows us to check whether the products of personal hygiene we consume contains microspheres, as part of its campaign Beat the Microbead.

In the summer of 2013, the UNEP, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment of the Netherlands and the English NGO Fauna & Flora International, made a partnership with those foundations to develop an application for international use (Microbead App).

Through this application, consumers can see digitally a list products of personal hygiene to check whether a given product contains plastic microspheres, using a color code: red: the product contains microspheres; orange: the product still contains microspheres, but the manufacturer has indicated that it will adapt it or then make the replacement of the microspheres within a specified period and green: the product is free of plastic microspheres.

In Portugal is the Associação Portuguesa do Lixo Marinho (APLM) which coordinates the database of products. For more information consult the website of the APLM (www.aplixomarinho.org/beat-the-microbead-1) or http://www.beatthemicrobead.org/product-lists/

There is also already a seal of trust Look for the Zero through which the manufacturer declares that its products are free of any ingredient Zero Plastic Plastic Inside (for more information see: http://www.beatthemicrobead.org/look-for-the-zero/).

The reality for personal hygiene products does not still be ideal, however, they are in a higher stage of evolution in relation to the remaining products containing microspheres of plastic. It is up to us as consumers take the same attitude in relation to the cleaning products and others.