Magnus joins campaign to tackle microbeads

  • Magnus goes to Plastic Tides Camp in Ithaca, New York, where he learned about microbeads. (Photograph by Blaire simmons)

    Magnus goes to Plastic Tides Camp in Ithaca, New York, where he learned about microbeads. (Photograph by Blaire simmons)

  • Magnus goes to Plastic Tides Camp in Ithaca, New York, where he learned about microbeads. (Photograph by Blaire simmons)

    Magnus goes to Plastic Tides Camp in Ithaca, New York, where he learned about microbeads. (Photograph by Blaire simmons)

  • Magnus goes to Plastic Tides Camp in Ithaca, New York, where he learned about microbeads. (Photograph by Blaire simmons)

    Magnus goes to Plastic Tides Camp in Ithaca, New York, where he learned about microbeads. (Photograph by Blaire simmons)

  • Magnus goes to Plastic Tides Camp in Ithaca, New York, where he learned about microbeads. (Photograph by Blaire simmons)

    Magnus goes to Plastic Tides Camp in Ithaca, New York, where he learned about microbeads. (Photograph by Blaire simmons)


Buyer beware

To tell if a product has microbeads look for the words “polythene” or “polypropylene”.

Several leading beauty product manufacturers including Proctor & Gamble, Unilever, Colgate-Palmolive, Johnson & Johnson, The Body Shop and L’Oreal, have made commitments to phase out the use of microbeads in their products.

Magnus Henneberger is begging Bermuda to scrub out beauty products containing microbeads.

The 13-year-old is an ambassador for American environmental group Plastic Tides.

The organisation warns of the danger plastics commonly found in facial scrubs and shampoos present to the environment, and works to get them banned.

“I first heard about the dangers of microbeads when Plastic Tides spoke at my school in July,” said Magnus, who joined the group at a summer camp in New York.

The Saltus Grammar student was so inspired he ransacked his bathroom for products with microbeads once he returned home.

“I found a couple of things with microbeads in them,” he said. “They were in shampoos and facial scrubs. I was really surprised to find them in my toothpaste. Apparently, some brands put them in toothpaste to give it texture.”

He convinced his parents to toss them all out.

“Through the presentation [at school], I learnt that microbeads wash down the sink and into the water system,” he said. “They are non-biodegradable and absorb chemicals, pesticides and other toxins. Creatures like fish eat the microbeads, and then we eat the fish and the toxins.”

Plastic Tides tested Bermuda’s waters for microbeads while here, the results haven’t yet been released.

Magnus went to a second presentation by the group and then sent an e-mail pledging his support.

They surprised him with an invitation to join them at a summer camp in Lansing.

“There were only about seven other students,” said Magnus. “Most of them went to the same high school in Ithaca. I was the first outsider to join.”

He and the other campers spent a week paddleboarding around Cayuga Lake collecting samples.

“We set up a trawl that was dragged behind two paddleboards,” said Magnus. “This was the kind of paddleboard you stand up on. The hard thing about it was staying in sync with the other paddleboard.”

The campers analysed their samples at nearby Cornell University.

“We had to be really silent, because there were scientists working in the lab,” said Magnus. “We couldn’t disturb them. The results surprised me because there were more microbeads than I thought there would be. They are very toxic and could threaten wildlife.”

It wasn’t all work. Magnus also got to camp for several days at Poison Ivy Point on Cayuga Lake.

“It was just a name,” he laughed. “I didn’t get poison ivy. The camp was pretty fun because I got to meet some new people who also cared about banning products with microbeads. For part of the time I also stayed with another camper and his family. They were really welcoming.”

Plastic Tides made him an official ambassador, once he completed the camp.

Illinois, Colorado and Connecticut are among the states now in the process of banning microbeads.

Magnus wants to see Bermuda join them.

“There are perfectly good alternatives,” he said. “I am hoping to buy a paddleboard and do a project similar to what was done on Cayuga Lake. If Plastic Tides comes back, I’d like to join them on whatever they are doing in Bermuda.”

His dream is to become a marine biologist. “I’ve always been interested in the marine environment,” he said. “I like fish and plants. Snorkelling is pretty cool.”

Magnus said the camp cost around $400 for a week excluding airfare.

“It would be nice to see more children from Bermuda take part next year,” he said. “I am hoping to go again next summer. Plastic Tides is hoping to get sponsorship from companies in Bermuda so that more children can go.”

BEST also has a number of plastic pollution awareness programmes. See their Facebook page.

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Published Sep 10, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated Sep 9, 2015 at 10:21 pm)

Magnus joins campaign to tackle microbeads

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