Environmental Group Pushes for Microbead-Free Campus

Plastic Tides Campaign, an environmental organization, pushes University to eliminate the sale of products containing plastic microbeads...

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By Rubin Danberg Biggs via the Cornell Daily Sun, 4/9/2015



The Cornell extension of the Plastic Tides Campaign, an environmental organization seeking to reduce plastic pollution, is beginning a push to encourage the University to eliminate the sale of products containing plastic microbeads in stores on campus.

One of the goals of the campaign is to increase University sustainability, according to Plastic Tides President Valerie Pietsch ’15.

“The Cornell chapter will spearhead initiatives that promote more sustainable attitudes and policies on Cornell’s campus [that] specifically target plastic pollution,” Pietsch said. “The chapter will also move towards conducting research locally in the coming semesters.”

The project originated last summer when Christian Shaw ’13, Gordon Middleton ’14 and Celine Jennison ’14 documented their time paddleboarding across the waters surrounding Bermuda, collecting plastic waste from the sea, according to Pietsch.

“Once in our waterways, [microbeads] are powerful absorbers of organic pollutants and pose health risks to marine life.” – Valerie Pietsch ’15
“Once in our waterways, [microbeads] are powerful absorbers of organic pollutants and pose health risks to marine life.” – Valerie Pietsch ’15

The goal of the Bermuda project, according to the campaign’s website, was to “generate a media presence to raise global awareness of the ever-growing prevalence of plastic pollution in the marine environment [and] make a valuable contribution to the growing body of research surrounding marine debris.”

The group began its Cornell microbeads campaign due to the environmental threat posed by the plastic beads, according to Pietsch.

“Plastic microbeads are found in many popular cosmetic products such as face wash and toothpaste. […] These beads are specifically designed to wash down drainage systems and are too small to be captured by sewage systems. As a result, they quickly end up in marine ecosystems.”

The result, Pietsch said, is devastating.

“Once in our waterways, they are powerful absorbers of organic pollutants and pose health risks to any marine life that ingests them,” Pietsch said. “If not killed directly from ingesting toxic plastics, these fish have the potential to harm us; we inevitably consume the accumulated microplastic toxins.”

The group, composed of a six member executive board, has reached out to Bear Necessities, the Cornell Store and Noyes Community Center, requesting that they remove products containing microbeads. Additionally, the group is in the process of creating a petition, which Pietsch said she hopes will convince administrators to make what she says is a necessary change.

“As there are not a large amount of products present in campus stores, we are hoping our efforts as well as the petition will be able to quickly convince the administration to remove these unsustainable microbead products and replace them with natural alternatives,” Pietsch said.

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