A ban on the manufacture of products containing microbeads came into force yesterday (09 Jan) – a landmark step in the introduction of one of the world’s toughest bans on these harmful pieces of plastic.
Environment minister Thérèse Coffey announced that manufacturers of cosmetics and personal care products will no longer be able to add tiny pieces of plastic known as ‘microbeads’ to rinse-off products such as face scrubs, toothpastes and shower gels.
These damaging beads can cause serious harm to marine life, but the UK’s ban – praised by campaigners as one of the toughest in the world – will help to stop billions of microbeads ending up in the ocean every year.
A government press release said this ban – alongside the success of the government’s 5p plastic bag charge, which has taken nine billion bags out of circulation – ‘puts the UK at the forefront of international efforts to crack down on plastic pollution’.
‘The world’s seas and 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.
‘Microbeads are entirely unnecessary when there are so many natural alternatives available, and I am delighted that from today cosmetics manufacturers will no longer be able to add this harmful plastic to their rinse-off products.
‘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.’
Dr Sue Kinsey, senior pollution officer at the Marine Conservation Society, said the charity is ‘delighted that such a robust microbead ban has come into force’.
She added that this is the ‘strongest and most comprehensive ban to be enacted in the world’, and that it will help to stem the flow of microplastics into our oceans.
‘We believe that this signals a real commitment on the part of this government to clean up our seas and beaches and hope this is a first step on this road before we see further actions to combat plastic waste.’
DR SUE KINSEY
Senior pollution officer at the Marine Conservation Society
The announcement comes ahead of the government’s upcoming 25 Year Environment Plan, which will set out how it hopes to achieve the ambition of becoming ‘the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it and create clean, healthy and productive oceans.’
A ban on the sale of products containing microbeads will follow later in the year. While these products remain on shop shelves, you can instead choose from the wide range of microbead-free personal care products.
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