UK bans plastic microbeads – alternatives abound

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In the United Kingdom, the recent ban on plastic microbeads in cosmetics and personal car products is launching alternatives like biobased corn husks, apricot kernels, walnut shells and jojoba oil as a replacement for the polluting plastic microbeads. Maker of commercial hand wash products, Deb, uses washed and ground walnut shells, ground apricot kernels, corn meal, and olive kernels as natural abrasives in their products. Unilever also has replaced microbeads with apricot kernels, cornmeal, ground pumice, silica and walnut shells.

New biodegradable microbreads are also being researched in laboratories like University of Bath’s research on cellulose from waste paper that are reconstituted to form beads that stay whole in the formulation but break down once they reach a water treatment plant. Purdue University researchers developed an alternative made from soy oil called SoyFoiliate. Procter & Gamble also recently filed a patent application for biodegradable abrasive particles that use bio-based polymers like polyhydroxy alkonates (PHA).