New research could make oceans cleaner
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Microbeads are tiny sphere of plastic, less than 0.5mm in size, that are added to thousands of cosmetics products to give a smooth texture. They are too small to be filtered out by sewage treatment systems and many trillions of the microscopic beads ultimately end up in rivers and oceans, where they can be ingested by fish, birds, and other marine life. Although projects are being developed to scoop up larger pieces of ocean trash, the microbeads are too small to remove. After learning that a single shower can release as many as 100,000 microbeads into the ocean, the government of the United Kingdom has called for a total ban on the beads. Now, researchers at the University of Bath have developed a biodegradable alternative to plastic microbeads made from cellulose, a natural plant fiber. The cellulose is broken down into harmless sugars by organisms used in sewage treatment, and the beads can be manufactured in a continuous process – making them cost effective to produce.
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