Each year, an estimated eight million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean – equivalent to a full garbage truck dumped into the sea every minute. A new ‘What’s in your bathroom?’ campaign by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) seeks to raise awareness on the harm caused by plastics in personal care products and shifts that can be made to reduce plastic footprints.
Between 60 to 90% of the litter that accumulates on shorelines, the surface and the sea floor is made up of plastic.
The most common items are cigarette butts, bags, and food and beverage containers. Consequently, marine litter harms over 800 marine species, 15 of which are endangered.
Alarmingly, in the last 20 years, the proliferation of microplastics, microbeads and single-use plastics have made this problem even more pronounced.
The new campaign ‘was launched in mid November as part of its wider Clean Seas Campaign of 2017 to galvanize a global movement that tackles single-use plastics and microbeads.
Now in the second phase, it is shining a light on specific aspects of marine litter, such as plastic pollution generated by the cosmetic industry.
Many consumers are not aware just how much plastic there may be in the personal care items they use daily on their faces and bodies,
From the plastic in packaging to the under-5mm microplastics hidden within the products, including beads or glitter, they are designed to wash down the drain, travel through rivers and ultimately end up in the sea.
Microplastics are too small to be filtered out by waste treatment plants and attract waterborne toxins and bacteria that stick to their surfaces.
Because they look like food, they are eaten by fish, amphibians, insect, larvae and marine animals as well as seabirds and other marine life, blocking digestive tracts and causing physical problems.
In addition to endangering marine life, the health implications of microplastics on humans are not yet fully known, but considering their prevalence in clothes, food, water and cosmetics, are expected to be far reaching.