Innovate UK funds ‘breakthrough’ microbead replacement
A Canadian biotech company claims to have developed a commercial-scale biodegradable replacement for the harmful synthetic microbeads found in many beauty products.
TerraVerdae BioWorks, announced today (Monday 24 August) it had carried out a 10,000 litre production run for its microbead replacement, which it developed with funding from Innovate UK.
TerraVerdae’s natural microspheres meet industry standards for biodegradation in a marine environment and can be produced in a range of sizes to meet all requirements for cosmetic formulations.
“Developing the technologies needed to produce commercial scale quantities of our biomaterial products in an economic and efficient process is a milestone for the company, and potentially the industry,” said TerraVerdae CEO William Bardosh.
“Our first product developed using this technology, biodegradable and biocompatible microspheres to replace synthetic microbeads in personal care products, addresses a strong global need to remove plastic contamination from water supplies.”
Microbeads are used as exfoliants in a range of beauty and cosmetic products, including facial scrubs and toothpastes.
Their small size means that they cannot be filtered out during wastewater treatment, so they often filter down to rivers, lakes and seas, where they are eaten by marine species which cannot differentiate between microbeads and food.
The beads – which are known to absorb toxins – can accumulate inside fish and other marine life, becoming more concentrated and toxic as they are passed up the food chain.
A 2010 study of 670 fish found that 35% had microplastics in their stomachs.
The environmental backlash against microbeads was so strong, that in June, almost all of Britain’s major retailers pledged to faze them out of their own-brand products by 2017.
Terraverdae, which made its breakthrough in collaboration with researchers from the UK’s Centre for Process Innovation, now plans to establish a biorefinery in the North East of England.