It's hard to imagine that a little tube of face wash or wrinkle cream could impact the environment, but it can and not because of the container, but because of what's in it. Many personal care products contain tiny beads, made of plastic that work to exfoliate skin or improve cleansing. The problem is these beads are so tiny, ranging in size from 0.0004 to 1.24 millimeters. They are not caught in the filters of waste water treatment plants and wind up directly in the oceans and rivers. Fish mistake them for food and ingest them, and multiple studies have shown that many species are being affected. According to government records, almost 19 tons of the beads were making their way into water supplies in New York State alone.
President Obama signed a bill banning the use of these beads in products in late 2015. Companies will have until July 2017 to phase out their use in personal hygiene products. Now the UK is looking to follow suit. A report from the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee said that a single shower can flush 100,000 plastic particles into the sewage system. An estimated 86 tons of microbeads are released into the environment in the U.K. each year from facial scrubs alone.