#017 Plastic Cosmetic

Hundreds of thousands of plastic microparticles are released in the environment every time you put on your makeup or tan lotion on your skin. Many products still use microbeads of plastic. Giovanna Laudisio and her team decided to do something against these microkillers and put their skills into action.

Watch their Circular Story here!

“I was on holiday with my partner in Lombok in Indonesia. Much more relaxed and unspoiled compared to its neighbour island Bali. And it has retained a more natural, uncrowded and undeveloped environment. But we were shocked by plastic pollution, the beaches were already choked with it, while the island had not reached its touristic potential” 

“That’s when I thought that I wanted to use my technical skills to find a solution for plastic pollution. I am passionate about technology and the environment and, after experiences in a big corporation and academia, I was looking for the right project to put to work all my skills and leave a mark in the Universe”. 

“I decided to investigate how to make microbeads that are eco friendly and are safe for our oceans and rivers. Microbeads are just the start but we have bold plans to move from beads to foams and films so that future generations can enjoy seas and beaches without plastic.

Coming up in this Circular Story

  • What microbeads are;

  • What Naturbeads does;

  • Where you can find microplastics;

  • How Sustainability and Public Image of companies finally go together;

  • What you can do yourself about the Microplastic Problem and how to avoid consumption


Every year more than 250,000 tons of plastic microbeads enter the oceans. This corresponds to 20 billion plastic bottles and contributes to 1.5 million tons of CO2. Plastic microbeads are made from fossil fuels. They are used as exfoliants, opacifiers, film formers in cosmetic products, abrasive in detergents, anti-caking agents in fertilizers, binders in paints and coating, fillers in composites, bulking agents in food and medicine, emulsifiers and antifoam agents in oil and gas applications etc. By replacing plastic with cellulose, we want to reduce plastic pollution and the emission of greenhouse gases.

Cellulose microbeads are 100% biodegradable.

Naturbeads is scaling up the manufacturing of cellulose microbeads to replace plastic microbeads. Because of their small dimensions they escape wastewater treatment plants and end up in the oceans where they are eaten by fish which eventually end up on our tables. Cellulose microbeads instead are 100% biodegradable. The raw materials are sourced from renewable resources like sustainable forestry or from waste cellulose. 


“Plastic microbeads have already been banned in many countries in rinse-off products. And now the European Chemicals Agency is considering banning them from all applications. This means that companies are actively looking for plastic microbeads substitutes. A great opportunity to develop these beads for multiple kinds of products. “

“So far we have sampled our beads to companies in personal care and cosmetic industry, paints and coating, adhesive, fluids for oil and gas, a medical company and a shoe designer. We have already received some positive feedback that our beads have the same performance of plastic microbeads with regards to density, roundness, humidity absorption, chemical stability, homogeneity etc. It is critical for us to work with all these end-users because we don’t have the capabilities to test the microbeads in such a large variety of products and formulations in house.”

At Naturbeads, the cellulose material we use is sourced from nature. It is transformed into a useful ingredient and when it has completed its function, it is returned to nature because it is 100% biodegradable. Working with partners to source cellulose from waste will make us fully circular because we won’t use new resources.

Sustainability and Companies Public Image go hand in hand

The European Union aims to improve the protection of human health and the environment from the risks that can be posed by chemicals with the REACH Regulation. In a recent publication on the impact of these regulations, they point out how important the Sustainability concerns and Public Image of companies are starting to become: 

“Environmental sustainability is one of the most defining and prevalent issues facing our society today. Therefore, it is only natural that companies tend to afford heightened attention to it. Companies’ sustainability policies are closely linked with their public image in the eyes of various societal stakeholders. Sustainability concerns and public image were cited as a driver for substitution by downstream users (23 %), manufacturers (21 %), and other stakeholders (24 %), while they were regarded as negligible by distributors. It seems, therefore, that substitution is often triggered by companies’ general sustainability policies and their desire to have a positive public appeal, which in turn is conducive to bolstering their profitability. This finding is somewhat in contrast with the conclusion of RPA (2017)8, which stated that “while chemicals management and specific industry initiatives (such as Responsible Care and Global Product Stewardship) contribute to achieving companies’ compliance and HSE objectives, these are not directly integrated into sustainability strategies”.

Here you can find a list of restricted chemicals. 

Zebra Companies are Black and White

“Cleantech entrepreneurs do not have to choose between profit and purpose. We fit in the definition of zebra companies, companies that are both black and white: We are (or will be) profitable and improve society, and, unlike unicorns, we are real. I am a trustful and dependable leader who takes decisions based on evidence and after careful consideration.

With increasing awareness from consumers about climate change and pollution, our customers and customers’ customers are looking for a differentiator that can win over consumer preferences. By offering a green, renewable product we provide them with a clear advantage. “

Circular Quote
of the day:

My vision for the future is a world without waste, one where everything is used, recycled and reused for the benefit of future generations that have to live in an overcrowded world with limited resources.

Giovanna Laudisio
Founder of Naturbeads

The Real Price

All companies want to be seen as being sustainable but eventually, companies need to reduce costs and increase profits. This means that our product needs to beat the competition not only in terms of performance but also on price. And Naturbeads competition, which is plastic (PE, Nylon, PTFE etc.) is much more established, benefiting from economies of scale and decades of process optimization, so the price of plastic microbeads is quite competitive.

“If companies paid the real price for their raw materials which includes their impact on the environment, competition would be much fairer.” Giovanna Laudisio.

Many companies told us that the issue of plastic microbeads is already solved with the bans enacted in some countries for plastic in rinse-off products. They also claim that plastic used in other products, like leave-on products, is not as polluting as plastic microbeads. 

The truth is you can still find ingredients that are considered polluting plastic microbeads in many products sold in UK where bans are active because companies find loopholes in the definition of microbeads allowing them to continue to use them. 

How is cellulose extracted from biowaste?

We do not extract the cellulose ourselves. At the moment we buy it from commercial companies. We have also received samples from several forestry groups from Finland and Sweden, from companies that produce cellulose out of waste, such as from the residue after the production of sugar from the sugar cane. 

Cellulose can also be obtained from side streams of other cellulose-based products like paper or nappies. We will explore all these options in the coming years to make sure that our product is sustainable and it contributes completely to a circular economy.

In our process we take the cellulose which, as you can see in the graphic below, is obtained in fibre form and we transform it in spherical form. 

Cellulose is insoluble in most solvents and for this reason is very difficult to process. We transform it in spherical form to help formulators who use spherical polymeric beads to replace them more easily. If you replace a spherical powder with a fibre for example, you might encounter a lot of issues, like different rheology and texture. Rheology concerns fluids and so how creams rolls on your skin, or how a paint is applied on a wall etc. That’s why it is so important to provide users with an ingredient that will help them replace the plastic microbeads and reformulate their products without too much costly R&D.

4 Things you can do yourself

If you can’t reuse it, refuse it!

Refuse single use and disposable plastics & tell your family and friends to do the same. Buy package free in supermarkets. Don’t buy nor drink plastic bottled water! And avoid refilling your plastic bottle multiple times. More and more microplastics will come off. Rather use a good one that keeps your water clean and cool.

Reorganize your bathroom

Many cosmetics contain microbeads, making different choices here really makes a difference.

  • Choose ‘organic’ bathroom products, they won’t contain microbeads. Brands like Emerginc are well choosen.
  • Get the app Beat the Microbead to scan your cosmetics.
  • Look at the label and check product ingredient lists. Avoid polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and nylon, and instead opt for natural, biodegradable ingredients, like grains, ground nut shells and salt and sugar crystals.
  • Never flush condoms in the toilet!

Rethink your clothes and laundry

60% Of the microplastics in our wastewater may come from doing our laundry, because the fibers come off during washing and drying. You can avoid this by:

  • Clothing: buy sustainable clothing and pay attention to the textiles used
      • Pure cotton, silk, linen: does not contain plastics
      • Acrylic, polyester blends do contain plastics
  • Doing laundry:
      • Use a ball that attracts microfibers
      • Wash synthetic clothing in a filter bag
      • Install a filter at your water system at home if possible

Get inspired

Books, apps, insta influencers: its all about a plastic free lifestyle

If you could have a gigantic billboard with anything on it what would it say and why?

“Energy and persistence conquer all things” (By Benjamin Franklin)

What would you do with a € 1.000 budget?

What spurred my interest in reducing plastic pollution was the sight of unspoiled beaches littered with plastic. I think future generations should learn that this is not how it is supposed to be. I would arrange a trip to clean up a beach with pupils to collect plastic and raise awareness on the issue of plastic pollution. Kids are very receptive, and I am sure they would bring the learnings back home influencing their parents to reduce the use of single-use plastic. 

Did we get you interested in microplastics and want to see more?

Check out the Circular Story of ECOFARIO. Coming soon: Outlander Materials and Made of Air.
All fighting plastic pollution.

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Circular Quote of the Day

Do something that makes your kids proud.

Dr. Sebastian Porkert, Founder ECOFARIO

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