Micro-plastics

Protecting the marine environment from the potential impact of micro-plastics is an important issue. We stopped using plastic scrub beads in 2014 in response to concerns about the build-up of microplastics in oceans and lakes.

Background

Mangrove plants

Small pieces of plastic material identified in the marine environment are often referred to as micro-plastics. 

Microplastics originate from a variety of different sources including the breakdown of larger plastic materials in the water, the shedding of synthetic fibres from textiles during domestic clothes washing, and from the use of small plastic beads, for their abrasive or other properties, in a range of consumer and industrial products. Plastic microbeads from cosmetic products form a very small contribution (<0.1%) of the total amount of marine litter.

Unilever used to use small plastic scrub beads in a limited number of dedicated personal care products, such as exfoliating face and body washes. The plastic scrub beads were used as an ingredient because of their ability to gently remove dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. Many consumers enjoy the clean feeling that using products with the beads provides.

Unilever's position

We stopped using plastic scrub beads in 2014 in response to concerns about the build-up of microplastics in oceans and lakes. We had formerly used them in some of our exfoliating products. We now use alternative exfoliating ingredients, such as apricot kernels, cornmeal, ground pumice, silica and walnut shells, enabling people to feel confident that the Unilever face and body washes they use do not contribute to the accumulation of microplastics in the world’s oceans.

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