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Cosmetic products containing plastic microbeads. (Photo Credit: 5 Gyres)

Cosmetic products containing plastic microbeads. (Photo Credit: 5 Gyres)

Written by Candace Gregg

In January of this year, I was one of five UCLA undergraduates to embark on a crash course in environmental issues. The five of us came from several different departments across campus, but we all had a keen interest in understanding the issues facing our environment today and a desire to be a part of the solutions. As a part of an honors collegium ecology class, we partnered with 5 Gyres and were presented with the task of inspiring education and activism for microbeads on college campuses. The best place to begin this work, we decided, was right on our own campus.

Having a microbead-free campus seemed like an ambitious yet attainable goal for our group, and so we set to work to create a campaign to this end. The Associated Students UCLA (ASUCLA) has a very influential presence at UCLA and operates student stores in six different locations across campus, including the large student union store. ASUCLA is the nation’s largest student association and we quickly found that the student body government of a major university is much like a smaller version of a complex state or federal government, and it’s many layers operate in much the same way.

To research for our proposed ban, we visited the stores themselves and documented just how many microbead products they had on their shelves. We then began to network as much as we could, reaching out to professors and students who would support our efforts. After several months of meeting with student representatives and members of ASUCLA and sharing our vision for a microbead-free campus, we were able to present in front of an ASUCLA service committee. Several months later, the ban was submitted for consideration to the finance committee, and finally the ASUCLA Board of Directors.

Left to Right: Coarlie, Lindsey, Jiwei, Qi and Candace. (Photo Credit: 5 Gyres)

Left to Right: Coarlie, Lindsey, Jiwei, Qi and Candace. (Photo Credit: 5 Gyres)

The Board voted on July 31st to pass the ban, and as soon as current supply runs out, will stock the shelves of their stores across campus with only microbead free products. This is a very exciting victory for us as students and for 5 Gyres, and it’s only just the beginning! We hope to see microbead bans passed on college campuses across the country and see students act in support of larger state and federal policy to reduce plastic pollution in our oceans and waterways.

This article originally appeared on 5 Gyres. Click on the link and scroll down the page to sign up for the 5 Gyres activist kit that will help you lead your own microbead-free campus effort.

The 5 Gyres Microbeads Free Campus Kit will contain a step by step guide for passing a microbeads ban at your college as well as educational tools, posters and handouts and more! It will be launched within a month, but you can register to be the first to get it now!

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