Have you heard of microbeads? Tiny bits of plastic used in cosmetics. Loved for their exfoliating abilities. Hated for their environmental impact. Their negative impact has gotten so bad (read costly), that states are now beginning to ban them (yeah Ilinois, come on New York!). The properties of the microbeads that the cosmetic industry like include 1) cheap and 2) large surface area.
Not surprisingly there seems to be some collective industry moaning about how hard it is to find something to replace the miracle microbeads. Yet even scientists warn that substituting them with certain natural and biodegradable ingredients such as sugar or walnut shells, which take up oxygen during decomposition, will cause unwanted environmental problems.
Enter biochar (bet you could see that was coming, right?). Biochar can easily be milled down to the required size (~1mm) and it has plenty of surface area. If it does make its way into the Great Lakes and beyond, all the better! Some very interesting research out of Taiwan actually shows that feeding biochar to fish is pretty beneficial (see pages 7 – 8 …hat tip to fellow biocharista Frank in Taz for sharing this). Even if the fish don’t eat it though, the char should sink to the bottom harmlessly, or maybe it will take some nasty chemicals with it! Regardless it will safely sequester carbon all the while.
But back to its use in cosmetics, for a moment. Biochar or charcoal has been used in soap for quite some time. I had a local soap maker make me up a batch of “Char Wash” which I have used for years. It’s great stuff. Other products that you can find microbeads in include facial and body scrubs & peels, and toothpaste. I’ve even seen it used in nail polish. Can biochar be used in these products too? I would answer with a resounding yes. (Well maybe not the nail polish.)
If any of the big cosmetic companies would like a few samples of different types of biochar to test in their products, just give me (or any of the biochar makers out there) a shout! I’d be happy to send them a selection…