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VICTORY #2! Johnson & Johnson To Cease Use Of Plastic Micro-Beads!!



In a follow up to our letter to manufacturers signed by our key partners in The Beat The Bead campaign (Plastic Soup Foundation and Plastic Free Seas) along with over 70 NGOs worldwide, we’re pleased to announce a MAJOR VICTORY today. This morning I spoke with Jay Kosminsky, VP Worldwide Communications and Public Affairs for Johnson & Johnson, and received some very good news. On the heals of launching a full scale grassroots assault on the manufacturers of products that include polyethylene beads employed as an exfoliant in their products, J&J asked me for 72 hours to hold off. I was promised that they’d be able to make a public statement that we’d be happy with. After a great conversation with Jay on friday and cognizant of Johnson & Johnson’s track record for taking the high ground when the environmental impacts of their products come into question, we decided to give them some time. As promised, J & J came back with a bold statement, which their competition should learn from–

Johnson & Johnson will phase out the use of micro-beads.

From Jay Kosiminksy:

“At the Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies, we’ve already begun the phase out of polyethylene microbeads in our personal care products. We have stopped developing new products containing plastic microbeads, and we are currently conducting an environmental safety assessment of a promising alternative. This assessment is part of our “informed substitution” approach, which helps ensure that the alternatives we choose are safe and environmentally sound, and that they provide consumers with a great experience. Our specific plans will be developed once this assessment is complete.”

(The alternative they’re researching is an organic material, FYI)

In other words, Yes, J&J will stop using microbeads but we don’t have a firm timeline yet for total phase out. Mr. Kosiminsky promised us that this assessment referred to above will not take years but months (tops) and promised to keep 5 Gyres abreast of the timeline as it develops. Given our positive dialogue, we trust this to be the case. Of course, 5 Gyres and our partners will hold them to their pledge.

Big thanks to all of our partners who helped create the landscape to make this happen, especially, Janet Nudelman and Stacy Malkan, from Campaign For Safe Cosmetics, Annie Leonard from Story Of Stuff, Maria Westerbos from Plastic Soup Foundation, and Tracey Read from Plastic Free Seas–all of whom have been instrumental in obtaining this victory.

What an incredible day for the ocean! We’ve come a long in this campaign–Unilever, The Body Shop, L’Oreal, Colgate-Palmolive have all announced commitments to end the use of microbeads. Next up, we’re going full court press on Procter & Gamble who have not made a commitment, though we have been in discussions with them. Please stay tuned in the coming days as we’ll need your help to get P&G to act–we’ll be launching our campaign action page urging P&G to do what’s right. Microbead plastic pollution is a solvable problem. We’re proving that inch by inch.

In August or September, 5 Gyres will be publishing a peer reviewed paper on our expedition to The Great Lakes where we found high concentrations of these beads which lead us to this campaign. That’s what we do–take action based on the scientific data we collect. We’ve got a long way to go in the fight against plastic pollution, but today, together, we’ve made serious progress. CHEERS!




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25 Responses

  1. Julie says:

    Congrats 5 Gyres, Stiv and everyone else involved in this awesome campaign! Looking forward to the day when we see the ‘all cosmetic companies have banned microbeads’ news.

  2. Hello,
    this are so good news!!!
    We are working in Germany for the campagne. And we are really happy to see, that big companies have to react on our campagne.
    Great!!!Good work!!!Thanks!!!

  3. Hello,
    this are so good news!!!
    We are working in Germany for the campagne. And we are really happy to see, that big companies have to react on our campagne.
    Great!!!Good work!!!Thanks!!!

  4. Another great job by 5 Gyres! Congratulations Stiv and everybody else who worked on this.

  5. Andy Keller says:

    Congrats 5 Gyres! Thank you for bringing this issue to the attention of the people most able to solve the problem!

  6. Susan Edwards says:

    A wonderful step from a trusted US company.

  7. Marina says:

    Congratulations to 5 gyres and everyone who contributed to this campaign. I’m sure this is a reflection of a hard work plenty of quality. I hope this is just the beginning of a major awareness and mobilization of manufacturers and users of plastic products..!

    One more time: well done!

  8. Robina Riccitiello says:

    Great job, Stiv Wilson, and 5 Gyres!!!

  9. Melissa says:

    Interesting. You state that the alternative to the microbeads will be organic. Yet the microbeads are organic- made of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen- as are all petroleum based products. You might want to clarify the meaning of this statement.

    Do they intend to replace the microbeads with something that is derived from an organically-grown plant?

    • Stiv Wilson says:


      Thanks for your note–polyethylene beads are not organic– there are other plasticizers other than the elements you list. They will be replacing with biodegradable material sourced from plants most likely.

      • Deborah Hart Yemm says:

        I only became “aware” of this problem last night, thanks to an article about the research ongoing in the Great Lakes in a trade publication, Plastics News issue dated Sept 16, 2013, and have shared my new awareness in my online social networking community “A New Gaia” on Ning. I have shared your website for “want to take action?” there. I am relieved to see your news because we just purchased the Neutrogena Acne Kit for our 12 yr son who is experiencing his first outbreaks because it contains the 2 most recommended as “effective” ingredients. Sadly, I still see “polyethylene” on the ingredients label but at least there is hope !! Thanks for the great work !! BTW our drains go into a septic tank drain field in soil and are unlikely to arrive in the flowing waters of our area . . . or so, I sincerely hope.

      • Bryan says:

        Melissa is using the chemical definition of “organic,” and is correct. Most plasticizers are also organic compounds.

        What you really mean by ‘organic’ is likely ‘plant-derived.’ Biodegradability is the most important measure over these terms – it’s also conceivable that certain compounds produced by nature have long degradation times in surface waters.

        I want to say that this stuff is pedantic, but one should be very careful in definitions, as companies try to stretch these definitions as much as possible in formulating their products. Make sure that when you get a pledge, it’s for something that will meaningfully help the pollution problems.

        That being said, thank you very much for the good work 5 Gyres!

  10. Great work you guys! Next stop: no more disposable diapers.

  11. [...] mainstream brand that pledged to stop using the beads. And this week, Johnson & Johnson also pledged to stop using micro beads in all of their products. The “Stop the Micro Bread” campaign’s next target: Procter [...]

  12. Rob Moir says:

    Congratulations to both 5 gyres and to your articulate associates. Together you presented a very coherent and eloquent appeal to J&J. One that they could not resist to honor and meet requests made reasonable. P&G will require an even broader more diverse coalition of product users, given that P&G is more the corporate Goliath than is J&J. The Ocean River Institute is happy to help bring more participants to your coalition. Winning the microbead war will enable people to better understand the need to attack plastic pollution from laundering polyesters and polar fleece fabrics. Here I doubt there is a substitute. Instead perhaps the solution will involve clever manufacture so fabrics don’t shed and last longer for all to use. Your skills gained from working successfully with J&J will be called on again for the next pitch to the summit of clean water.

  13. [...] recently read an article announcing that Johnson & Johnson has agreed to stop using plastic (polyethylene) microbeads in [...]

  14. [...] Here's a blog update from the 5 Gyres celebrating Victory #2 against Johnson & Johnson: – Johnson & Johnson will phase out the use of plastic [...]

  15. Beth Schaefer says:

    HOORAY!!! Fantastic news. Congrats to all of you at 5Gyres and your partners and J&J for showing the world you care!

  16. [...] Well, in response to pressure from concerned citizens and action groups, Johnson & Johnson has decided phase out the use of micro-beads!!! Learn more about this victory and future plans here: 5 Gyres Victory!  [...]

  17. [...] Gyres Institute has already had some success with. Four companies, including Colgate-Palmolive and Johnson & Johnson, have agreed to voluntarily stop using microbeads in their products by the end of 2017, but many [...]

  18. [...] Gyres Institute has already had some success with. Four companies, including Colgate-Palmolive and Johnson & Johnson, have agreed to voluntarily stop using microbeads in their products by the end of 2017, but many [...]

  19. [...] “Nós paramos o desenvolvimento de novos produtos que contenham microesferas plásticas, e atualmente estamos realizando uma avaliação de uma alternativa promissora e ambientalmente saudável”, afirmou a empresa ao site da organização 5Gyres. [...]

  20. Jade Bishop says:


  21. Tracy Ashen says:

    wow, I didn’t know this, because I mostly read promised effects and not ingredients list. Quite tricky.

  22. GREAT progress on this issue, with increasing momentum globally.

    Just a reminder, don’t support companies that would put gazillions of little plastic balls in products that would touch your body, go in your mouth and wind up in our oceans and waterways in the fist place.

    Support your local, organic, small-batch soap product makers. Your body and your ocean will thank you!

    Rock on 5 Gyres!

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