Ban microplastics from being used in detergents

Ban microplastics from being used in detergents

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Joon Lee started this petition to State Environmental Protection Agencies and Law Makers and

Hello! Our names are Dana, Joon, Jonathan, Noah, and Ryan, and we are high school students from Cresskill High School. We, along with high school students from Uncommon Charter Schools in Brooklyn, are currently participating in an internship with Dr. Joaquim Goes at the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory researching the prevalence of microplastics in our daily lives. We began our work examining commercially available laundry detergents used in every home. As our research has progressed, we are becoming increasingly concerned about the astonishing number of microplastics being used in detergents, and more so on the impact that they have on the marine flora and fauna including seafood that lands on our dinner plates.

Microplastics are becoming increasingly relevant to our everyday lives, as about 60 percent of the material that makes up our clothes worldwide now include plastics. In addition, microfibers come from a variety of sources such as cigarettes, cleaning products, and cosmetics. These microplastics, which are less than five millimeters in length, are not trapped in filters of the sewage treatment system. Microplastics have permeated marine ecosystems across the globe and driven by ocean currents, winds, rivers have been transported all over the world including remote, otherwise pristine, locations and deep into the ocean.  The consequences of these shortcomings are catastrophic. Microplastics are ingested by an array of marine biota and are now present in the entire food chain. The exposure of microplastics to our environment can lead to a multitude of adverse effects both for the organism that ingests them as well for humans who consume the wide range of seafood and fish that grace our dining tables. 

In fact, a 2015 study conducted by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute revealed that about 700 marine species consume microplastics. Among those species, the study found that crabs and larvaceans contribute most to the spread of microplastics, as these animals are filter-feeding animals that consume plastics and then are consumed by other predators such as tuna, spreading the plastic around and affecting many marine life organisms. Another study from that same year conducted by Marcus Eriksen, the co-founder of the 5 Gyres Institute, and others concluded that the number of microplastics in the ocean ranged from 15 to 51 trillion pieces, weighing between 93,000 and 236,000 metric tons. 

Not only that, but microplastics have an impact on every part of the world. For instance, Herbert Fisk Johnson III, the CEO of SCJohnson and a scientist, has discovered microplastics all over the world, from the remote Sahara desert in the African country of Niger to the waters around the Galapagos Island in South America. A new study from September of 2019 by the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and Eckerd College just found an estimated four billion particles of plastics in Tampa Bay. Recent studies from Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory are showing that plastic particles can adsorb pharmaceuticals and other organic pollutants such as pesticides and can, therefore, serve as vectors for transporting organic pollutants into the food chain. That is why Kinsley McEachern, the first author of the study and a recent Environmental Science and Policy graduate student at USF St. Petersburg, commented that “only by removing the sources of plastics and microplastic particles can we successfully decrease the potential risks of plastics in the marine environment”. 


This is why action must be taken against the use of microplastics. Along with the recent debate on global warming and climate change and efforts to alleviate this problem, there needs to be a conversation about microplastics too. If we continue our current indiscriminate use of products containing microplastics, it would put many species including humans in jeopardy, and the extinction of even a single species could forever alter the food web and damage the environment. 

Most importantly, these microplastics are not biodegradable and can take hundreds of years to decompose. Coupled with the fact that CNN in 2018 estimated that by 2050, global plastic production is expected to triple, the issue of microplastics will only continue to haunt us if no actions are taken to prevent its release into the environment.


The Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 banned the use of plastic microbeads in rinse-off cosmetics products. While this is a step in the right direction, we feel that more action needs to be taken. Specifically, we want our lawmakers to amend the act to also ban the use of microplastics in detergent. Our work is showing that a frequently used household product, i.e. laundry detergents, contributes immensely to the release of microplastics into the environment. By banning plastics in detergents, we would be able to significantly reduce any further environmental damage resulting from microplastic exposure.

It is our responsibility to work towards reducing the number of plastics in our environment. We all need to work to raise awareness about the harmful effects that microplastics have and find more environmentally-friendly and sustainable alternatives. If we continue to use popular detergent brands filled with microplastics, not only are we being ignorant and apathetic to a pressing issue, but we are also adding on to the problem.

Please support our petition for a greener, healthier planet. You can help us by signing this petition and sharing it with your friends. Try to reduce the use of plastics in your household, as nowadays there are many reusable utensils available. Aim to use detergents that are very transparent, as our microscopic analysis shows that the more opaque the detergent is the more plastics it contains. Most importantly, contact your local lawmakers, State and Federal Congress members to let them know that you care about this urgent problem and that you want to see change happen. 

Join our movement for a plastic-free world. Do your small part, and let’s make a positive impact in the world by banning microplastics in detergents.

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