Stop Using Harmful Plastic in Cosmetics

Target: Robert A. McDonald, CEO of Procter & Gamble

Goal: Demand Procter & Gamble stop using harmful plastic that threatens fish in the Great Lakes

Plastic polyethylene micro-beads are commonly used by cosmetics manufacturers as abrasives and exfoliators in facial and body scrubs. According to Dr. Marcus Eriksen, Co-Founder of The 5 Gyres’ Institute, “these micro-plastics absorb pollutants, are eaten by organisms, and enter the food chain, potentially affecting human health.” This petition demands that Procter & Gamble stop their use of micro-beads before their proposed deadline of 2017.

While several of their competitors have promised to discontinue the use of micro-beads by 2015, Procter & Gamble have stated their deadline is 2017. The company must realize that protecting the environment and their consumers should be a top priority and recognize the urgency of removing micro-beads from their products.

Measuring less than a millimeter in diameter, these micro-beads are too small to be filtered by water treatment plants and are carried through drains into bodies of water such as the Great Lakes. A survey of the Great Lakes revealed “600,000 micro-beads per square kilometer in two separate Lake Erie samples.”

Plastic is a major pollutant in lakes and oceans and poses an extensive risk to marine life. Fish such as yellow perch, sea turtles and seabirds mistake the beads for food, causing the plastic to become lodged in their stomachs, blocking digestive systems, and depriving them of essential nutrients. While larger plastic debris commonly threatens turtles, seabirds, and fish through digestion or entanglement, micro-plastics are so small and dispersed that they have the potential to impact a significantly larger group of species. Filter-feeding organisms like mussels and clams are particularly vulnerable.

Poisonous chemicals including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), such as the highly toxic insecticide DDT have been detected in micro-beads in Lake Erie. PCBs have been banned from production since 1979 due to their cancer-causing properties. These chemicals can accumulate in the environment and organisms for more than 50 years. Pollutants can be passed via mother’s eggs, weakening embryos in their most vulnerable stage of life.

Many ingredients such as pumice, apricot, and oatmeal can serve as natural exfoliators instead of toxic plastics. As micro-plastics can’t be removed once they appear in bodies of water, prevention is key to ending this destructive practice and protecting the Great Lakes. We urge Procter & Gamble to replace the plastic micro-beads in their products with natural alternatives.


Dear Mr. McDonald,

Your company’s use of plastic micro-beads in cosmetic products threatens organisms on every level of the food chain. This micro-plastic ends up polluting bodies of water such as the Great Lakes with harmful chemicals that kill fish and other marine life that ingest it.

Due to their small size and toxic composition, micro-beads can remain in the environment and threaten countless organisms both immediately and in the long-term. Consumers deserve a product that isn’t destructive to the environment and marine life. Procter & Gamble must accept the findings of studies that have detected dangerous chemicals in the Great Lakes from plastic micro-beads and act swiftly to remove micro-beads from their products as quickly as possible.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Julia Wang via Flickr

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  1. Vivian B says:

    This stuff is killing all kinds of aquatic life! Just use a rough washcloth! It will do the same as these so-called beauty buffers! And stop poisoning our Great Lakes and other watersheds!!!!

  2. J Davidson says:

    There is no limit to the abuse of P&G towards wildlife, humans and the environment of this entire planet in the name of money.

  3. Victoria C. says:

    Too true the continued use of animals in ‘research’ for washing powder products, cossmetics and Dove,etc as well as palm oil holds back progress in ethical products. Other companies like Faith in Nature and Lavera manage to produce superb safe products without tormenting animals

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