At a glance, jojoba beads seem pretty sustainable since they’re renewable and biodegradable.
Overall, jojoba beads are not bad for the environment as they reduce the reliance on plastic microbeads.
Here’s everything you need to know about the environmental impact of jojoba beads.
1. What Are Jojoba Beads Made Of?
Jojoba beads are small beads derived from jojoba oil. The oil is sourced from the seeds of the jojoba shrub.
The wax goes through a process known as dehydrogenation – a chemical reaction where hydrogen is removed – to form the beads.
You’ll notice that jojoba beads come in different colors, despite the fact that jojoba oil is a transparent liquid with a gold hue.
They are typically dyed with oxides. These dyes are made from natural pigments – usually metal.
Jojoba beads are naturally unscented, but some might come scented with essential oils or synthetic fragrances.
2. Are Jojoba Beads a Natural Product?
Jojoba beads are a natural product. They come from the oil found in the seeds of the jojoba shrub.
You can purchase plain, unscented jojoba beads.
They also come in different colors, but again, most of the time, they are colored using natural pigments, so they’re still considered natural products.
They’re most commonly found in cosmetics like soap, skin care products, or hair care products.
These products may or may not be natural, depending on the other ingredients.
For example, many soaps use petroleum-based surfactants, while it’s not uncommon to find paraffin wax in moisturizing skin care products.
With that said, if a brand is choosing to use jojoba beads over plastic microbeads, then they are likely to use other natural ingredients like shea butter, lye, coconut oil, or aloe vera.
3. How Do Jojoba Beads Affect the Environment?
Since jojoba oil is sourced from the seeds of the jojoba shrub, this means the plants do not need to be cut down to be harvested.
Jojoba beads are presented as a more sustainable alternative to plastic microbeads in cosmetics.
These microbeads can cause microplastic pollution when they are washed down the drain after using soap, haircare, or skincare products.
The water from your shower, toilet, and sink goes through wastewater treatment plants, where many larger particles and pollutants are removed.
Microplastics can still make their way through these facilities and into the environment.
Wastewater treatment can remove over 90% of microplastic particles from the wastewater, which sounds promising.
However, the biggest concern is how those particles can still enter the environment from effluent discharge and sludge from those facilities is released.
Microplastic pollution is a huge environmental hazard.
Consuming microplastics can be detrimental to human and animal health and can even negatively affect reproduction.
They can also contribute to global warming as phytoplankton and algae can help to absorb CO2, but microplastic pollution can disrupt the marine ecosystem, inhibiting this effect.
Not to mention, jojoba beads are renewable, whereas plastic is not.
Jojoba shrubs can be found in warm climates such as Mexico, Arizona, and California.
So, if you do not live near these areas, your jojoba beads traveled a long way to reach store shelves.
Although the carbon footprint of jojoba beads is unclear, up to 8% of greenhouse gas emissions globally are due to freight transportation.
4. Are Jojoba Beads Sustainable?
Since jojoba beads are sourced from a plant, they are renewable, which is promising.
There may be concerns that overharvesting seeds can damage plant populations if it means there are fewer new jojoba shrubs being planted.
Jojoba oil is also used in its liquid form in skincare products as well as being used as an ingredient in insecticides, anti-rodent products, and bio-energy production, so this plant is in high demand.
With that said, jojoba shrubs can also be propagated.
In fact, only a small percentage of the plants grown from seeds actually seem to produce yields that are economically acceptable, so propagating these plants seems to be the most productive option.
Jojoba is also not a particularly water-intensive crop, as it can grow with as little as 13 cm (5.11 inches) of rainfall annually.
This is good as it means water does not need to be sourced from elsewhere to maintain these crops and can be used for other purposes.
It takes around five years for jojoba plants to become commercially productive.
Their productivity peaks when they are ten to 15 years old, and they can continue to be commercially viable for 100 to 200 years.
Like other plants, jojoba absorbs CO2. Since they live for so long and are not cut down in order to be harvested, this CO2 is not released back into the environment.
Jojoba plants can even combat desertification as they can create warm low pressure that encourages precipitation.
5. Are Jojoba Beads Biodegradable?
Pure jojoba beads are biodegradable.
It is not clear if oxide dye is biodegradable when it is sourced from natural materials as those are not always renewable or biodegradable.
Since these are typically made from metal, it is unlikely.
Jojoba beads scented with essential oils are biodegradable.
Since synthetic fragrances are broad, and brands rarely provide additional information on where these fragrances are sourced, it’s hard to determine if they are biodegradable too, but it is unlikely since many are made from petroleum.
Although pure jojoba beads are biodegradable, they cannot biodegrade if the surrounding product is not biodegradable too.
For example, soaps made from lye and shea butter are biodegradable, but synthetic and petroleum-based ingredients are not.
So, don’t always assume a product containing jojoba beads is biodegradable.
Not to mention, biodegradation can only take place when certain conditions pertaining to bacteria, oxygen, temperature, and more factors are met, so jojoba beads disposed of in the general waste bin will not actually biodegrade.
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