New mobile app detects plastic in consumer care products


A new application for smart phones offering consumers information about the presence of plastic microbeads in personal care products will be launched today (4 October).

The application ‘Beat the Microbead’ is a cooperation between 30 NGOs. It is free and available in English, Dutch, French, Spanish and German and aims to make eco-minded consumers more aware of their purchasing behaviour.

This application scans the barcode of a personal care product and tells the consumer whether or not the product contains plastic microbeads through a traffic light colour code.

'Red' means that the product contains microbeads; 'orange' means that the product contains microbeads, but that the manufacturer has pledged to stop using microbeads in the near future. 'Green' ensures that the product does not contain microbeads.

"Plastic only breaks down partially and leaves little pieces of material called microbeads. The worst part is that water treatment plants are unable to filter these microbeads completely and thus directly influence the plastic soup that threatens oceans," said Jeroen Dagevos of the North Sea Foundation.

Spreading like wildfire

The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) commissioned an international and multi-platform version of the already existing Dutch iOS App earlier this year and the international version will be presented Friday at the Gloc-2 conference of the UNEP.

Maria Westerbos of the Plastic Soup Foundation said the application relied on local NGOs to put together the lists of personal care products containing plastic microbeads.

"The US, the UK, Germany, France, Hong Kong and Canada are already doing this. Recently, NGOs from Brazil, Sweden and New Zealand have joined us as well," Westerbos said. She added that she expected the application to spread like wildfire across the globe.

"It has become clear that the application is especially popular with consumers who want their products to degrade in a natural and eco-friendly manner. Because nobody wants to wash his hair or teeth with plastic."

The European Commission launched a public consultation (Green Paper) in March 2013, which aims to launch discussions about how to make plastic products more sustainable and reduce the impact of plastic discards on the environment.

The Green Paper mentions micro-plastics as one of the public policy challenges posed by plastic waste.

Micro-plastics are an important category of marine litter referred to in the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), for which EU countries will have to develop targets and measures.


Council of the EU

European Commission

Press release: Environment: What should we do about plastic waste? New Green Paper opens EU-wide reflection (7 March 2013) [FR] [DE]

Green paper on a European strategy on plastic waste in the environment (7 March 2013)

Public consultation on the Green Paper on Plastic Waste

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