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In January 2016 President Obama approved a new bill banning the use of plastic microbeads in cosmetics and toothpaste.


The ‘Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015’ has been introduced to restrict the amount of non-biodegradable plastic entering waste water treatment plants. 


Plastic microbeads including the widely used polyethylene (PE) bead are commonly used as abrasives in personal care applications. Abrasives are frequently used in toothpaste to help remove dirt and plague from the teeth. They are also widely used in exfoliating skin cleansers to provide a scrub effect.

Plastic microbeads are dangerous because they are too small to be removed by the filters used to process wastewater and are therefore discharged straight into rivers and oceans. Once in rivers and oceans they can be mistakenly eaten by fish and other aquatic animals with potentially fatal consequences.  


The ban will come into effect in July 2017 and it is expected that other regions will follow with the Green Party already campaigning for the UK to introduce similar restrictions. 


Alternatives to plastic microbeads


Whilst the new bill will heavily restrict the use of PE and other plastic beads there are alternatives available that are not affected. 


Surfachem distribute ingredients for PQ Silicas who manufacture a wide range of non-plastic abrasive microbeads. 

PQ Silicas SORBOSIL range are produced from hydrated silica and are completely safe in aquatic environments. Hydrated Silica beads are suitable for both toothpaste and cleansing formulations and are available in different particle sizes depending on the desired level of abrasiveness. 

SORBOSIL hydrated silica beads are naturally derived with Ecocert certification and colour variants are also available. 





If you would like further information about PQ Silicas range of ingredients please contact us or your Account Manager. 

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