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Plastic microbeads extracted from a popular face cleansing scrub sold in Hong Kong


Mr Wong Kam-sing, Secretary for the Environment HKSAR
Chairperson 2015/2016, LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs


Ban plastic microbeads in personal care products in Hong Kong

Launched: 19 July 2015


Every year millions of tonnes of plastic trash enters our global oceans. The HKSAR Government has recognised the serious plastic marine waste problem in Hong Kong, which was highlighted during the wide scale 2012 plastic pellet spill cleanup. It was understood then that the size of plastic particles in the marine environment is important as micro plastic is easily ingested by marine life. A newly recognized threat to marine life is from tiny plastic microbeads used in personal care products. These microbeads can never be cleaned up once they enter the sea.

We would like you to sign and share this petition, asking the HKSAR Government to amend the Product Eco-Responsibility Ordinance (CAP 603) to prohibit the sale, importation and production of personal care products containing plastic microbeads in Hong Kong.

Many leading brands of personal care products use these tiny particles of plastic as an exfoliating and cleansing ingredient. These products are designed to be washed down the drain where the microbeads can pass through wastewater and sewage filtration systems, and are ultimately released out to sea. Microbeads act as sponges, absorbing and accumulating persistent organic pollutants (flame retardants, dioxins and pesticides), which are present in lakes and oceans. In addition, microbeads never fully degrade.

Scientific studies have shown that microbeads can be ingested by sea animals such as plankton, clams and shrimp. As these organisms are at the bottom of the marine food chain, it is likely that the fish and seafood we are eating may have ingested these potentially toxic microbeads.

The number of microbeads per product varies widely. One commonly used scrub product sold in Hong Kong states on the packaging that it contains 1,000,000 black and white ‘scrubs’ in the 100ml tube. Another brand claims it contains 2,000 beads per use.

Please click on this link to watch plastic particles being ingested by plankton. (University of Exeter)


Leading governments in Europe, Canada and the US have been reviewing their policies and enacting legislation to protect their waterways from plastic microbeads used in personal care products. In Canada, microbeads will be added to the List of Toxic Substances, allowing the government to regulate microbeads under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. In 2008, The Product Eco-Responsibility Ordinance (CAP 603) of Hong Kong was created to minimize the environmental impact of certain types of products. As microbeads in personal care products have been globally identified as a source point of marine pollution, they can effectively be addressed under this ordinance here in Hong Kong.

The use of microbeads is an unnecessary form of plastic pollution as there are benign alternatives such as sugar, salt and crushed nuts, which have successfully been used by many brands around the world. 

For more information, go to


To Mr Wong Kam-sing and the EA Panel Chairperson,

 Through the Working Group on Clean Shorelines you have acknowledged that Hong Kong’s waters are polluted with plastic. 
Worldwide, there is a growing concern about the increase in micro plastic pollution, and studies have shown that this is also a problem in Hong Kong. Microbeads in personal care products are internationally recognized as a source of micro plastic marine pollution. 

Leading governments in Europe, Canada and the US are protecting their waterways from these plastic microbeads through legislation. Likewise, the HKSAR Government needs to implement legislation which will prevent microbeads from entering our waterways. As microbeads cannot be removed once they enter the sea, this is the only way to effectively stop this type of water pollution. We request that the HKSAR Government immediately recognize this issue and amend the Product Eco-Responsibility Ordinance (CAP 603) to prohibit the sale, importation and production of personal care products containing plastic microbeads in Hong Kong.


Commitment announcement from A.S. Watson Group

Hello Supporters,

The retail giant A.S. Watson Group recently announced their commitment to stop using microbeads in their Own Brand products.

"Taking positive steps ahead of legislations in their markets, A.S. Watson subsidiaries which carry Own Brand products have already banned the use of microplastic in rinse-off cosmetics/personal care scrub products since 2014, and they will be removed from shelf by 2017."

A.S. Watson is the largest international health and beauty retailer in Asia and Europe with 13 retail brands in 25 markets and 12,800+ stores.

* * * 

Whilst we can now see increased awareness of the issue of microbeads as well as actions to remove this ingredient starting to happen in Asia, we still need to push the Hong Kong Government to legislate on the use of plastic microbeads.  Ensuring that not only 'Own Brand' rinseoff and scrub products are free from plastic but ALL products.  A comprehensive ban on using plastic as an ingredient in any product that could end up being discharged into the waste water needs to be implemented.

Many companies won't act on microbeads unless they are forced to.

Please keep sharing and supporting this campaign.

Thank you,

The Plastic Free Seas Team


Sa Sa retail group to ban microbeads by 2018!

Hello Supporters,

Sa Sa is a leading cosmetics retailing group in Asia. It has over 280 retail stores and counters, covering Hong Kong & Macau, Mainland China, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan.  Since 2014, the Plastic Free Seas team have been discussing the issue of plastic microbead usage with Sa Sa and informing them of the potential harm their continued use of this ingredient was having on our local marine ecosystems.  On August 22nd 2016 Sa Sa published their position on microbeads.  

Please read their statement here

Sa Sa is the first Hong Kong retail group to release a public statement and commit to a phaseout timeline for microbeads.  Their private label products will be free of microbeads by December 2018 and their non private labels will be encouraged to meet this deadline too.

Now that a leading Hong Kong retail chain has officially recognised the potential environmental and health impact of microbeads, it is time for the HK Government to act too!  

Please help us to continue to raise awareness and get signatures on the petition.

 Thank you,

The PFS Team

9.4 billion microbeads entering HK waters each day!

Local researcher Dr Lincoln Fok recently published a study showing 'Evidence of microbeads from personal care product contaminating the sea' in Hong Kong.

The highlights of the study showed:

• Eleven blue, spherical microbeads were captured by surface trawls in Hong Kong waters
• The captured microbeads closely resembled those found in a facial scrub available in local supermarkets.
• It is estimated that up to 9.4 billion microbeads are emitted to coastal waters in Hong Kong per day
• Actions are needed to minimise microbeads from entering the aquatic environments

We need to put MORE pressure on Hong Kong's Environmental Protection Department and the Environment Bureau to take action on this issue!  We have evidence of plastic microbeads in Hong Kong's water.  NOW IS THE TIME FOR ACTION!

Please sign and share this petition.

Thank you very much,

Tracey, Dana, Julia and the PFS Team 


USA bans microbeads!

On Dec 28th, President Obama signed into law the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015.   This is a bill to prohibit the sale or distribution of cosmetics containing synthetic plastic microbeads.  This bill amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to ban cosmetics that contain synthetic plastic microbeads beginning on January 1, 2018.  

Despite the long timeline, this is great news for the oceans!  Let's make this happen in Asia too by raising our voices loud and clear - we want the HKSAR Govt. to follow suit!  Our shared global waterways need more protection than just one country banning plastic microbeads.  The cosmetics companies in Asia also need to use an alternative to plastic.

Please spread the word and help us get thousands more voices added to this petition!

1.47 MILLION Plastic Microbeads in GATSBY Facial Scrub!

Every time you wash your face with Gatsby Perfect Scrub Facial Wash, 17,000 plastic microbeads will wash down the drain*.  We don't need to pollute our seas with plastic to have a clean face!

Next week the HKSAR Govt. is meeting to discuss what they can do about plastic microbeads in our body care products.  Let's make our voices heard that we want plastic out of our body care products and more importantly out of our oceans!

Please spread this petition NOW and make our voices heard - together we can make a big difference!

Thank you for continuing to support this campaign.

*Based on research by Dr Lincoln Fok from HKIEd (34,069 pieces LDPE were removed from 3g Gatsby Perfect Scrub Facial Wash)


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