Published On: Wed, Jan 10th, 2018

UK bans microbeads that ‘devastate marine life’

A landmark ban has come into effect in the UK that means plastic microbeads can no longer be used in cosmetics and personal care products in the UK.

uk microbeads

After a long-promised ban came into effect on Tuesday (9th January), microbeads are no longer allowed to be used in cosmetics and beauty products in the UK. The ban initially bars the manufacture of such products and a ban on sales will follow in July.

Thousands of tonnes of plastic microbeads from products such as exfoliating face scrubs and toothpastes wash into the sea every year, where they harm wildlife and can ultimately be eaten by people. The UK government first pledged to ban plastic microbeads in September 2016, following a US ban in 2015.

The devestating problem of plastic pollution choking the oceans has gained a high profile with recent revelations that there are over five trillion pieces of plastic floating in the world’s seas and that the debris has reached the most remote parts of the oceans. Microbeads, which are often used in face washes, shower gels and toothpastes are a small but significant part of this issue which campaigners argued was the easiest to prevent.

Speaking about the ban, environment minister Thérèse Coffey said: “The world’s oceans are some of our most valuable natural assets and I am determined we act now to tackle the plastic that devastates our precious marine life. Now we have reached this important milestone, we will explore how we can build on our world-leading ban and tackle other forms of plastic waste.”

Dilyana Mihaylova, at Fauna & Flora International, said: “We are delighted that a robust UK microbeads ban comes into force today. We hope this ban signals the dawn of a new era in the fight for cleaner, healthier oceans.”

Plastic bottles

Pressure is now mounting for action on plastic bottles – a million are bought every minute around the world and they make up a third of the plastic litter in the seas. In December, the UK’s environmental audit committee (EAC) of MPs called for a deposit return scheme, which has successfully increased recycling rates in other countries.

Mary Creagh MP, EAC chair, said: “The microbead ban is a step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done. Since we called for a ban, my committee has also recommended the deposit return scheme, a latte levy for plastic-lined coffee cups and reforms to make producers responsible for their packaging. We look forward to hearing the government’s response.”

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