Seoul, 20 July 2016 – A ranking of the world’s 30 largest personal care companies (1), published today by Greenpeace East Asia, shows that big brands are failing to remove microplastics from their products. The ranking shows that voluntary corporate commitments to end use of microbeads that pollute rivers and oceans are not working. Governments must legislate to ban microbeads in consumer products, say campaigners.

“There’s no single bad player, the industry as a whole is failing to regulate the use of microplastics everyday products. Companies claim to have microbeads under control but this is simply not true. As a result of weak corporate commitments, trillions [2] of microbeads from personal care products enter our oceans every day,” said Ms. Taehyun Park, Oceans campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia.

Microbeads are tiny plastic particles found in products from toothpaste to body cleansers. Too small to be filtered by most water treatment systems, the particles end up in rivers, oceans and the food chain, harming marine life and polluting the entire ecosystem.

Microbeads are part of a large and growing problem of plastic waste in oceans. An estimated eight million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean every year [3]. Between 2002-2013, the annual global plastic production rose nearly 50%, from 204 million to 299 million tonnes [4].

In the ranking [5], four companies stand out as doing better than their peers in cutting microbeads: Beiersdorf (Germany), Colgate-Palmolive (USA), L Brands (USA) and Henkel (Germany). However, none of the companies assessed got a full score sufficient to protect oceans from plastic pollution. US companies Revlon, Amway and Estee Lauder are the worst performers.

The ranking also reveals that the world’s five biggest personal care companies, Procter & Gamble, L’Oreal, Unilever, Colgate-Palmolive and Estee Lauder respectively, got very different scores, and are not living up to the collective responsibility that comes with being world leading brands.

“Voluntary regulation by the industry is clearly not good enough. Not only is the industry continuing to pollute the oceans but it also creates confusion for consumers who are exposed to a dizzying array of different promises from personal care companies,” said Park.

“A legislative ban on microplastics in consumer products is the only way to ensure that these unnecessary pollutants are stopped from entering our oceans. Some countries have already taken action to ban microbeads. We urge the rest to follow suit.”

Regulation is in process in a number of countries around the world. The US ban microbeads from production of personal care products comes into effect from 2017. Governments of Taiwan, UK, Australia and Canada are working on microbead legislation. EU is also considering a microbead ban.


Notes to editors:

[1] The Greenpeace Microbeads Scorecard can be accessed  here.

[2] Scientific evidence supports a ban on microbeads. Environ. Sci. Technol. 49, 10759−10761 – here

[3] Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. Vol 347 ISSUE 6223 – here

[4] Plastic the facts, Plastics Europe –here

[5] Greenpeace East Asia sent a written survey to the 30 companies named. Based on their written responses and publicly available information, their microbeads position was ranked using four main criteria: commitment and information transparency; definition of microbeads; deadline; application scope. Greenpeace East Asia consulted Fauna & Flora International on good practice in corporate commitments to end microplastic ingredient use. Details to the ranking methodology can be found  here.

Media contacts:

Cedric Gervet, Communication Lead, Greenpeace East Asia, Seoul: +82 (0)10 2694 4669, [email protected]

Greenpeace International Press Desk, +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours), [email protected]