Beat the Microbead - Interview with the developer of a fantastic app

Did you have any prior development or coding experience?

We do not have a coding background, but working at the Plastic Soup Foundation, we learned quite a bit. Developing Beat the Microbead app has been a learning experience, especially in bringing a concept to life. We are fortunate to have app development experts on our side. Beat the Microbead app is developed by PINCH, a renowned mobile development agency from Amsterdam, together with Lelivero Design. We were also very grateful to receive advice and guidance from experts at Accenture as part of their volunteering for a good cause program.

What was the most challenging aspect of developing mobile app?

Making an app to detect microplastics from the ingredients of cosmetic products is not as easy as it sounds. We had a long research period where we tested various Optimal Character Recognition (OCR) technologies. The biggest challenge that remains is to tackle cylindrical and round products. The picture OCR works best when the entire ingredients are visible in the frame. And that’s a challenge with round products. The full ingredients list might not be in the frame.

Another challenge was to make a functional app with limited resources. As a non-profit organization, we do not have all the unlimited financial resources to create an app. With limited funding, we had to create the best version of Beat the Microbead app that would inform people about the plastic ingredients in their personal care products and provide them with the power to choose the right options. We still depend on donations and funding for maintenance and future upgrades.

Madhuri Prabhakar is the project leader and campaigner of the Beat the Microbead campaign by the Plastic Sop Foundation. She’s been working on this campaign for 3.5 years. Madhuri is passionate about and striving to have our personal care and cosmetic products free of plastic ingredients. She believes that we all deserve to take care of ourselves while taking care of the planet.

Danae Kleida is the researcher behind the Beat the Microbead campaign. She has been working on this project for two years and has researched the microplastic ingredients and database development connected to the app. Danae has a passion for data research and loves to observe patterns in data.

Name a few of your favorite apps and reason you love them.

We want to highlight three apps that we like:

Good on you is a similar app to Beat the Microbead but for clothes. You can check their brand ratings while you shop. You can also discover ethical and sustainable fashion labels from around the world. It’s great for shopping sustainable.

Litterati is an excellent app for if you do a lot of cleanups. You can use this app to register the items you are cleaning up from your surroundings. That way, you are making your neighborhood clean and creating data that will make the litter problem visible. This data can then be used to make companies and governments accountable.

My little plastic footprint is an app that helps you reduce your plastic footprint. They have hundreds of easy tips that will help you examine the plastics in your house and how you can slowly and gradually reduce it. Not only that, but you can also widen your knowledge about the plastic pollution problem with the in-app plastic soup quiz. This app is also by the Plastic Soup Foundation.

How long have you been working on this app?

The first version of the Beat the Microbead app came in 2014 or so. And since then, we have come a long way. The app’s current version came two months ago, and we have been working on it for more than 1.5 years.

What need of the user did you have in mind when developing this app?

To understand the ingredients of their personal care products. With this app, they can immediately know if their cosmetics contain microplastics by merely scanning the ingredients printed on the back. This app also helps people make the right choice: if their products contain plastic, they can discover microplastic-free brands certified by us as Zero Plastic Inside. Beat the Microbead app is the fastest way to know the truth behind your cosmetics.

In what way do you think your app is better than similar apps on the market? Please describe in detail what innovation you think you bring and what you are proud of in your app.

Our app has a very specific focus: microplastics! It’s a knowledge portal that educates people about the microplastic pollution created by everyday cosmetics and how they might be affecting our health.

This app is a citizen science platform, where users can contribute by submitting the data about the products they are scanning. Every time users add a product to our database, they help us build a case against microplastics. With every product information, we can create evidence and convince authorities about the extensive use of plastic ingredients.

With this app, people can take a political stance against the use of microplastics. The app features our ongoing petition that demands the EU to ban all ‘intentionally added microplastics’ in cosmetics.

Beat the Microbead app lets users speak up and make informed choices about their personal care products.

What are your future plans and expected features of the coming new versions of this app?

We see the potential of this app and how we can keep improving the user experience. We want to look into incorporating video OCR technologies. In the future, we want people to be able to see their scan history. This way, they can quickly go back to their already scanned products. We are looking forward to expanding the features of this app.

Assuming new users of your app are reading this page. What do you want to ask them to do (contact you about X, Share the app, etc.)?

First, I ask them to start scanning the products they already own and then use the app before they buy new. Then they can be sure they are not contributing to the almost impossible to clean microplastics pollution.

I urge them to have conversations about this with other people. Word-of-mouth is a great way to encourage friends and families. Leave a review, so we learn about the user experience and continue to grow. Sharing the app on social media is always helpful for our cause.

Beat the Microbead

About App:

The Beat the Microbead app is the fastest way to learn if your cosmetics and personal care products contain plastic ingredients. This app uses state-of-the-art text recognition technology. Just scan the ingredients of your products and check them for microplastics. Not only that, but you can also get to know microplastic-free brands certified by us.

How does it work?

It’s straightforward: you can scan products with four easy steps:
- Find the ingredients list on your product.
- Position the full list within your camera frame.
- Make sure the ingredients are clear to read.
- Take a picture to scan!

A traffic light rating system

- RED: Products that contain microplastics.
- ORANGE: Products that contain what we call “sceptical” microplastics. With this, we mean synthetic polymers for which there is not enough information available.
- GREEN: Products that do not contain microplastics.

Help us enrich our database!

Every time you add a product to our database, you help us build a case against microplastics. With every product information, we can create evidence and convince authorities about the extensive use of plastic ingredients. A bit of extra effort on your side makes you a part of the fight against microplastics in cosmetics and care products. So, go ahead, scan the barcode of your product and help us get some more information!

By adding the products to our database, you can also discover our certified microplastic-free brands. These brands have their entire range of products free of all known microplastic ingredients.

Why is it important?

Plastic in cosmetics is a global problem! Microplastics are hardly visible ingredients that pollute our planet & may pose health risks. These microplastics, hardly visible to the naked eye, flow straight from the bathroom drain into the sewer system. Microplastics are not biodegradable, and once they enter the (marine) environment, they are almost impossible to remove.

Sea animals absorb or eat microplastics; these particles are passed along the marine food chain. Since humans are ultimately at the top of this food chain, it is likely that we also ingest microplastics.

Using body washes or cosmetics that contain microplastics can put the ocean, ourselves, and our children at risk! With this app, you can get aware of this issue and make environmentally friendly choices.

Who is behind this app?

The collaborators behind this app include the following partners:
Plastic Soup Foundation: NGO based in Amsterdam, initiators of the worldwide campaign “Beat the Microbead”. Their mission: No plastic in our water or our bodies!
PINCH: A renowned mobile development agency from Amsterdam that is proud of their work for the Plastic Soup Foundation.

Categories: Health & Fitness

Date: July 28, 2020

Developer: Madhuri Prabhakar and Danae Kleida

About developer: Madhuri Prabhakar is the project leader and campaigner of the Beat th ... Read more



App URL in iTunes
App URL in Google Play


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