A study conducted by environmental NGO Greenpeace has found that various brands performed “disappointingly” in eliminating microbeads from their cosmetics and personal care products. The substance is harmful to oceans, Greenpeace says.

Greenpeace investigated the use of microbeads by the “top 30 companies in the industry” and found “serious loopholes,” it said on Wednesday. Of the brands it examined, Estée Lauder, Chanel, LG, Kosé and Amway were named as the most disappointing.

An investigation carried out by Greenpeace. Photo: Greenpeace.

Greenpeace said that microbeads are microplastics widely used in products such as face cleansers and scrubs. It added that there is no scientific evidence to support claims that they are capable of performing exfoliating functions, as the public generally believes. On the other hand, scientific studies have shown that they are not easily degradable and will pollute the ocean.

The environmental group said that since 2014, there have been international calls for the elimination of microplastics in products, but due to a lack of supervision, the policies adopted by many corporations are not comprehensive enough.

Senior campaigner Kate Lin Pui-yee said that although many companies claim that their products are environmentally-friendly and claim to have restrictions on microplastics, “the devil is in the details.”

“Many corporations have a very narrow definition of microplastics. For example, Chanel and LG have policies, but they only apply to rinse-off products and others such as foundation and BB cream aren’t included,” Lin said. She added that these multinational corporations have not fulfilled their responsibility to prevent their products from polluting the ocean and harming marine animals.

Microbeads in personal care/cosmetic products. Photo: Greenpeace.

Greenpeace also said that Amway, LG and Chanel failed to disclose the details of its policies on eliminating microbeads, while Estée Lauder applies its policies very narrowly. Kosé, it said, only governs its products developed after 2014.

“Greenpeace demands that brands should immediately improve or establish sound policies to eliminate microplastics from their products to stop polluting the oceans. We also suggest the public to be careful when they buy these kinds of products and only choose those without microbeads,” it said.

HKFP has contacted the brands for comment.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.