The Issue

Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic that are typically smaller than 1mm in diameter. They can be found in clothing, fabrics, and other every day products. They can also be found in the form of microbeads, which are added by cosmetic companies to personal care products such as facial and body scrubs and toothpastes to be used as exfoliants. Canada has officially banned microbeads in products, thanks to Ottawa Riverkeeper, LUSH Cosmetics, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, and many other organizations and individuals who campaigned to Ban the Bead!

Microplastics are often too small to be caught by our wastewater treatment plants and end up in our rivers, lakes and our oceans, where they don’t break down. They adsorb chemicals that are present in the water and are eaten by fish and other marine life who mistake them for food. Eating microplastics can cause DNA damage and even death to the wildlife that ingests it. Microplastics have been found in the Great Lakes and within our own Ottawa River.

How Are We Helping?

Ottawa Riverkeeper ran a campaign, “Ban the Bead,” conducted research on microplastics in the river, and partnered with other organizations to ask the Canadian government for change. We will continue working to see similar action taken on microplastics as we saw with microbeads.

Take Action

One of the best ways to take action is to reduce your plastics waste. This can be done in a number of ways:

  1. Say no to bottled water: opt for reusable water bottles and coffee mugs.
  2. Cut out the plastics bags: use containers instead.
  3. Purchase products in bulk or with limited plastic packaging.
  4. Recycle and reuse the plastics you do have.
  5. Pick up the plastic litter around you. Much of that plastic is washed into our storm drains and drainage ditches and eventually makes it to our waterways.

Our Resources


Ottawa Riverkeeper on La Semaine Verte


Thank you to the following funders, who support this important work: