New app helps consumers Beat the Microbead

Beat the Microbead

A new updated app Beat the Microbead from Dutch environmental organization the Plastic Soup Foundation has been launched to enable consumers to test products for microplastics.

The foundation, a member of the global movement Break Free From Plastic, has campaigned against deliberate plastic additives and hidden plastics in cosmetics ingredients lists since 2012. Its Beat the Microbead campaign has already resulted in the removal of microbeads from many brands of toothpaste and scrubs, but the ultimate goal is to make all skincare products and cosmetics plastic-free. Until this is the case, it believes that consumers must have the right to choose.

However, microplastics are often listed under their chemical names – such as tetrafluoroethylene or methyl methacrylate – on packaging and are therefore unrecognizable to most people. Enter the free Beat the Microbead app which uses machine learning software to read the list of ingredients on packaging and identify over 500 different micro and nanoplastics.

The user immediately sees whether the scanned product contains microplastics and, if so, which ones. Identified as a traffic light system, products are categorized as follows:

Red: micro and nanoplastics officially defined as such by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), the environmental organization UNEP and the engineering firm Tauw

Orange: Classed as ‘sceptical plastics’, synthetic polymers for which there is not enough information available on whether they are dangerous to humans and the environment

Green: Products that don’t contain plastic particles and products that carry the Plastic Soup Foundation’s Zero Plastic Inside certification.

Beat the Microbead

“Our patience is at an end,” says Maria Westerbos, director of the Plastic Soup Foundation. “In a letter to cosmetics manufacturers and the Dutch and the European Parliaments, we — and hundreds of other NGOs — demand transparency about the use of micro, nano and liquid plastics. And we urge these companies to stop adding them. Until that happens, we are giving consumers a tool to make a conscious choice for themselves. Power to the people!”

Jo and Stuart Chidley, founders of Beauty Kitchen which carries the Plastic Soup Foundation’s ‘Zero Plastic Inside’ certification, comment: “We are delighted with the launch of this digital tool. It will allow consumers globally to be more aware of the ingredients in their everyday items and encourage them to think more consciously overall regarding the sustainability of the products they are buying. We can collectively contribute to eliminating microplastics from all industries before they eliminate our planet.”