Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Oceans of Plastic - Beat the Microbeads (and more)

Tomorrow (Thursday, 20 August 2015 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM (AEST)) there is a Taronga Zoo Science Week event at the zoo: Oceans of Plastic.

I’ll be helping set up through the Sydney Society for Conservation Biology and the event continues the theme of this month’s Conservation Cafe with Prof Emma Johnston, which was on human impacts of marine ecosystems. It was a really interesting morning, and I am looking forwards to learning more.

One thing that struck me that morning was how little I actually knew about the products I used and their impact on the environment. I was shamefully unaware of plastic microbeads in cosmetics like facewash, for example, which are a massive issue.

I’m even more ashamed to say that my (ex-)facewash is on the “Beat the Bead red list” as containing polyethylene (PE) microbeads. I meant to check after the Conservation cafe but completely forgot. This in turn reminded of something else I pondered that day, not just regarding plastic pollution: isn’t it time that we put more pressure on supermarkets to have environmentally aware labelling of products. We already have it for a few things, like tuna (and, sadly, the unhelpful blanket labelling of GM products), but there are so many different considerations - water, energy, waste etc. - that I feel like something more comprehensive is required.

They have asked for questions for tomorrow’s panel, so mine is this:

Could/should we have “environmental impact” traffic lights on goods in supermarkets, akin to the nutritional value traffic lights on food?

I’m not sure if it will get asked but I’ll be interested to hear the panel’s thoughts if it is.

In the meantime, Beat the Microbead have a Warning: Plastics Inside! App. The idea is that you scan or look up your products before you buy. (I tried it on my face scrub and the scan failed but it was in the lookup list.) Alternatively, just go old school and look at the ingredients! (The main ones are: polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA).)

Anyway… if you are in Sydney and looking for a fun and informative (and cheap!) evening, you can get tickets for Oceans of Plastic on Eventbrite.

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