Tiny plastic pieces, referred to as microplastics, are used in many personal care and cosmetic products like toothpaste, skin creams, baby products, sunscreen and shaving cream. Since most of these products are used in the bathroom, they go down the drain as part of households’ wastewater streams. As wastewater treatment facilities do not “catch them”, a considerable amount of microplastics still find their way to the sea where they can: absorb and release pollutants, acting as vector for bacteria and viruses which can be harmful for marine and coastal organisms; be ingested by animals; have negative impacts on growth or feeding behaviour. While research on the impact of microplastics is at its early stages, there are early warning signs about their effects on the environment and human welfare. Cosmetics are by far not the only source of microplastics in the oceans. But their use is so common and widespread that cosmetics is a key entry point to raise awareness on microplastics issue. Initiatives by environmental NGOs, addressing the risks and impacts of microplastic in the oceans, are already under way.
Ocean literacy tools could strengthen the effectiveness of these awareness-raising efforts while widening the support from all actors of the comestic value chain in shifting to the production of ocean-friendly products which do not contain microplastic components.