We have been using SB Tribe to monitor growing consumer pressure around microbeads: the tiny plastic exfoliants found in face wash and toothpaste amongst other things, that have been found to flow through water treatment plants directly into the ecosystem. This is already contributing to a range of issues (from bioaccumulation of toxics to helping invading species to spread) in the Great Lakes of America and, while the beads themselves are tiny, they are present in such numbers that their use is a significant contributor to worldwide plastic pollution. Last year, Sherri Mason at the State University of New York in Fredonia found anywhere from 1,500 to 1.1 million microbeads per square mile in the Great Lakes, the world’s largest source of freshwater.
Below is a map of the terms associated with the debate, after the university announced you could send your unwanted scrubs to them for analysis.
From this map you can see that social media users are predominantly sharing information on microbeads, with a focus on plastic pollution.
Following the news that Illinois has enacted the first ban on the sale and manufacture of products containing microbeads, pressure is growing for further legislation and for companies to voluntarily remove these products from their portfolios. Whilst, currently, conversation volumes on social media are relatively small, the attention has already prompted several major brands to make public commitments to phase out plastic microbeads from their products. The conversation is being seen and shared by an average of 118 thousand people per day, and is only gaining strength.