Hong Kong, October 12 2016 – A crowdsourcing investigation by Greenpeace East Asia in Hong Kong, has found five leading cosmetics retailers selling products with microplastics, which has increasingly been proven to be damaging to the environment as well as failing to provide clear ingredient labelling on their products. Almost 1,500 products were surveyed in Bonjour, Colourmix, Mannings, Sasa and Watsons and nearly 50% of the products were found to not have clear ingredient labelling. For the products that had clear labelling, close to 40% of them contained microplastics.

Greenpeace Senior Campaigner Kate Lin said that whilst it is a common belief that only facial cleansers and scrubs contain microplastics, they are actually more commonly found in cosmetics.

“This crowdsourcing research discovered that a lot of makeup products such as eyeshadow, foundation, and lipstick also contain microplastics. These microplastics are smaller and more difficult to remove, and thus pose a greater pollution threat to our oceans,” says Lin. “What’s even more concerning is that the vast majority of brands and retailers do not properly monitor microplastics in their leave-on products nor do they have any plan to phase them out.”

Prior to the crowdsourcing research, Greenpeace East Asia in Hong Kong had asked the five retailers to explain their policies on microplastics (refer to Table 2). Apart from Colourmix, all retailers responded and said they had policies in place to deal with the microplastics issue. However,  only Sasa provided a full public commitment, whilst Mannings and Watsons said they only had a plan to phase out the use of microplastics in their own branded products and would continue to sell other brands that contained microplastics. Mannings did not publicly disclose the details of its microplastics policy, meaning there is a lack of public oversight. Furthermore, the responded companies are only targeting rinse-off products in their microplastics policies, overlooking leave-on products entirely, such as cosmetics and sunscreen products.

“Since half of their products are not clearly labelled, it’s very easy for the customer to mistakenly buy a product with microplastics,” says Lin. “A conscientious retailer must not only ensure that the products they are selling do not contain microplastics but also provide more product information to give consumers peace of mind when they shop at their stores.”

Microplastic pollution has become a global concern in the past few years, with research showing they not only pollute our oceans, but also harm marine animals and impact human health. Medical research has proven that materials smaller than 100 nanometres can be absorbed by skin cells, which leads to a more direct threat to the human body.

In July, Greenpeace published a report Plastics in Seafood, which found microplastic debris in the bodies of as many as 170 different species of marine animals. It is also possible for microplastics to absorb toxic pollutants in the ocean, and if a marine species accidentally ingests these microplastics these poisons then enter the food chain which increase the risk of harming humans. Several global brands have promised to phase out the use of microplastics in their products; the US introduced legislation in 2015 banning microplastics in cosmetics and personal care products; and, Taiwan, South Korea and others have also said they will introduce similar laws soon. However, Hong Kong has no such law or policy.

Greenpeace East Asia is calling on retailers in Hong Kong to halt all sales of microplastics in their stores by ensuring they stop using microplastics in both their branded products and cease stocking other brands that contain microplastics. Before that process is complete, they should make every effort to be as transparent as possible about the information they provide to customers. The Hong Kong government also needs to urgently enact legislation to ban the use of microplastics in cosmetics and personal care products, and amend the law to force companies to clearly label all their products so the public can make an informed choice. As consumers, we should avoid buying microplastics by consulting the list of microplastic names provided on Greenpeace’s website, and add their voice to our petition calling on these big retailers to stop manufacturing and selling products that contain microplastics.

Notes to Editors:

  1. Our “microplastics crowdsourcing team” consisted of 40 volunteers. They examined 1,413 products, of which 726 were rinse-off cleansers for face and body and 687 were leave-on products, such as cosmetics and sunscreen. They found evidence of microplastics in 37.5% of the products (219 items), of which 37 were rinse-off and 182 were leave-on products (refer to Table 1). Furthermore, almost half of the products (698 items) did not list their ingredients, or were listed in a language not commonly used in Hong Kong, such as Japanese or Korean

Table 1:Percentage of products found in 5 retailer stores with microplastics or without clear labels

    Total number of surveyed products by category Percentage of products containing microplastics* (Quantity) Percentage of products with no clear labelling** (Quantity)
Rinse-off products Face cleansing products 550 10.9% (29) 51.8% (285)
Body cleansing products 78 17.0% (8) 39.7% (31)
Hair cleansing products 98 0% (0) 84.7% (83)
Leave-on products Face cosmetics 220 77.3% (68) 60.0% (132)
Eye cosmetics 167 79.4% (50) 62.3% (104)
Lip cosmetics 105 84.3% (43) 51.4% (54)
Sunscreen 115 38.3% (18) 59.1% (68)
Hair products 71 25% (1) 94.4% (67)
Others 9 50% (2) 55.6% (5)

* The percentage is calculated based on the products that have a clear ingredient labelling
** The percentage is calculated based on the products that Greenpeace had investigated
Table 2:Microplastic policies of the 5 retailers

  • All private brands products will stop containing microplastics from 30 June 2017
  • Includes non-private brands products, but does not indicate a clear timeline
  • Does not include leave-on products
  • No response
  • No public available information
  • All private brands products will stop containing microplastics from 1 March 2017
  • Does not include non-private brands products
  • Does not include leave-on products
  • Applicable in HK market only
  • All private and non-private brands products will stop containing microplastics by 31 December 2018
  • Does not include leave-on products
  • All private brands products will stop containing microplastics from 1 September 2016 for HK market and from 1 January 2017 for other markets
  • Does not include non-private brands products
  • Does not include leave-on products

Photos :http://bit.ly/2dLgybA
Petition linkhttp://bit.ly/2e3ZEYJ
List of microplastic products sold in 5 retailers stores:https://secured.greenpeace.org/hk/campaigns/oceans/product-list/

Media Contacts:

Kate, Lin Pui Yi
Senior Campaigner, Greenpeace
Tel:2854 8309 / 9234 8312
Email:[email protected]

Bonnie Tang
Campaigner, Greenpeace
Tel:2854 8371 / 9256 4633
Email:[email protected]