JeffCO H20: Beauty and the Beads

bodywash-beadsThere are literally tens of thousands of beauty products on the market that claim to make your skin feel and look smoother.  One type of product is skin cleanser that contains an exfoliant.  The premise behind these products is that they gently remove dry surface skin cells to reveal smoother skin.  Many of these products contain plastic microbeads to do the job of exfoliation.  But microbeads aren’t just prevalent in the beauty industry.  Some toothpastes contain microbeads to polish and whiten your teeth as you brush.  So what’s the big deal if these products work?  While the microbeads may do just what they are supposed to do, they can create some dire consequences once they go down your sink or shower drain.  Plastic microbeads do not disintegrate and the municipal wastewater treatment process can’t filter them from wastewater.  Instead, the microbeads remain intact, making their way to local creeks, rivers, lakes, and oceans.  Fish and other aquatic animals swallow the microbeads, which means that microbeads could wind up in your food supply.  In December 2015, the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 became law, banning the manufacture of rinse off cosmetics, which includes toothpastes that contain intentionally added plastic microbeads, effective July 1, 2017.  The other good news is that there are many cleansing products available that contain exfoliants made from biodegradable ingredients such as fruit pits, nut shells, sugar, or salt.  You can even make your own with similar common ingredients.  As for toothpaste, read the label and choose one that does not contain microbeads, or consider alternatives such as toothpaste containing sustainable polishing agents like baking soda.



What’s Happening?

‘Tis the Season to Recycle – Between decorating, gifting, and feasting, the holiday season generates more waste than any other time of year.  This can offer a great opportunity to intentionally look for ways to recycle or reuse rather than discard items that you no longer need or want.

  • Check out for information about what and where to recycle many items.
  • Consider donating gently used items such as furniture, clothing, and housewares to a local charity for someone else to enjoy rather than just discarding them.
  • Cease the Grease – Jefferson County’s free household cooking oil and grease recycling program offers clean plastic jugs and recycling kiosks conveniently placed at 21 locations.


Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203