A Vancouver based environmental group is urging people in B.C. to participate in the federal government's move to ban microbeads from personal care products.

Microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic added to all manner personal and household products — toothpaste, moisturizer, body scrubs, cosmetics, laundry and dishwasher detergents.

The problem is the tiny beads get washed down the drain by the tonnes on a daily basis,accumulating in the world's oceans, lakes and rivers, and increasingly finding their way into the food chain.

'Good chance you're ingesting microbeads'

"It end up going down the drain which is the way it was designed," says Matthew Unger, Chair of Surfrider Foundation Vancouver. "It passes right through our waste management systems and goes straight into our waterway. It then ends up in the tissue of things like birds and fish and crustaceans and shellfish. 


The microbeads are made of the plastics polyethylene or polypropylene and are about a third of a millimetre in diameter. (CBC)

"If you eat shellfish from off the coast of B.C., there's a good chance you're ingesting microbeads," he said.

As well, people using toothpaste with microbeads are likely ingesting the plastic more directly says Unger, just by swallowing.

It's estimated a single bottle of facial scrub can contain 330,000 microbeads. On average microbeads have an estimated lifespan of 10,000 years.

​Environment Canada is currently asking for public feedback on the topic. The consultation is set to close March 10.

Ban the Bead

Surfrider Vancouver is trying to rally people to take part its "Ban the Bead" campaign by sending letters to their MP and the Environment Canada review committee.

Unger says it's important for decision makers to include bioplastics (plastics made from plants), biodegradable plastics and photo-degrading plastics in the ban as they are all harmful to the environment.

If Canada elects to ban microbeads and micro-plastics it will join other jurisdictions in the U.S. and Europe that have already done so. 

With files from Chad Pawson