Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Guest Post: "How I went from face scrubs to Sea Championing", volunteer Imogen tells us her story

Imogen's research: microbeads extracted from popular facial scrubs

"Guilty as charged. There I was happily using facial scrubs and other cosmetics that contained micro-beads and it had never even occurred to me that I would be washing my face or brushing my teeth with plastic fragments, why would it? Like so many others I was completely oblivious to the fact that I was contributing daily to marine litter.

It was only when I was introduced to microplastics while studying for my undergraduate degree that I was made aware of the damage I was personally causing the marine environment and I was horrified! Once I knew, it was easy to make more informed decisions about what I was buying to reduce my part in the pollution. Now I check the contents of cosmetics before I buy them and if they contain plastic then they’re not going in my shopping basket. Easy!

I’ve taken things a step further and I am now a PhD student at Plymouth University researching ‘The Sources and Fate of Plastic Pollution within the Marine Environment’.   I am passionate about providing the public with more information on plastic pollution’s origins, and its subsequent journey, future, and effects on the environment. Recently I have been extracting and quantifying the plastics used in top brand facial scrubs, and found the results very surprising.  Microplastics are known for being ingested by marine animals, transporting non-indigenous species to new locations, and generally making the sea into a ‘plastic soup’.  By looking at the amount, shape and size of the microplastics extracted, it helps to further identify the impacts they are having the marine environment. 

A SEM (scanning electron microscope) photo of a microbead used in facial scrubs

Unfortunately there are still many other ways the sea is polluted. Plastic bottles and carrier bags washing up on the beach and animals entangled in fishing lines are just two examples of the terrible images that spring to mind. Educating people on the ways that we pollute, very often unwittingly like I was, help us make the right lifestyle decisions for reducing our imprint and increasing our sustainability. If you’re not aware of the how we are contributing to pollution as a society then how are we expected to combat it?! This is the exact reason why I became a Sea Champion.

Myself and other Sea Champions have been spreading the knowledge about marine pollution to more people. We recently received training on how to deliver educational talks and workshops to schools and other organisations about the ocean and how to preserve it. Hearing the feedback from these talks has been fantastic, and it really shows how it just takes one person informing others to cause a ripple effect. Continuing to spread the word with fellow Sea Champions is something that I'm really looking forward to this year. The positive results and great feedback really proves how worthwhile this cause is and I'm excited to see how this project continues to grow."

Are you concerned about microplastics? Then head on over to our SCRUB IT OUT webpage to find out more and pledge to go microbead free!

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