A ban on the sale of products containing microbeads has come into force today (19 June) as part of the government’s ‘world-leading efforts’ to prevent these harmful pieces of plastic entering the marine environment.
From today, retailers across England and Scotland will no longer be able to sell rinse-off cosmetics and personal care products that contain microbeads – the tiny pieces of plastic often added to products such as face scrubs, soaps, toothpaste and shower gels.
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Just one shower alone is thought to send 100,000 microbeads down the drain and into the ocean, causing serious harm to marine life. The government’s ban – praised by campaigners as one of the toughest in the world – will now prevent billions of microbeads ending up in the ocean every year.
‘Microbeads might be tiny, but they are lethal to sea creatures and entirely unnecessary.
‘We have led the way in banning these toxic pieces of plastic, but this is by no means the end in our fight. We will now press ahead with our proposals for a deposit return scheme and ban other damaging plastic such as straws.’
Today’s announcement follows January’s ban on the manufacture of products containing microbeads.
It forms part of the 25 Year Environment Plan commitment to eliminate avoidable plastic waste and sits alongside the Treasury’s call for evidence on how changes to the tax system could be used to reduce single-use plastics.
With the microbeads ban now in place, the government says it’s exploring how other microplastic sources enter our marine environment.
Last month £200,000 was pledged by the government for scientists at the University of Plymouth to explore how tiny plastic particles from tyres, synthetic materials like polyester and fishing gear – such as nets, ropes and lines – enter our waterways and oceans.
‘We are delighted that this robust microbead ban has come into force. This is the strongest and most comprehensive ban to be enacted in the world so far and 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 we look forward to seeing further actions to combat plastic waste.’
DR SUE KINSEY
Senior pollution policy officer at the Marine Conservation Society
Commenting on the ban, Greenpeace UK oceans campaigner Fiona Nicholls said microbeads and other microplastics ‘are insidious, building up in our oceans and damaging marine life in a way that is difficult to see but is devastating to the environment.’
Fiona added that while the UK ban on cosmetic products containing microplastics is an important step, plastic pollution ‘is everywhere, so ministers mustn’t rest on their laurels.’
‘Government has the power to extend the microbeads ban beyond rinse-off personal care items and to act on other kinds of polluting plastic, from bottles to sachets, which are also clogging up our oceans at an alarming rate. Ministers must make sure supermarkets and food giants reduce the volume of throwaway plastic they put in circulation, and that non-recyclable and problem plastics are off the shelves by 2019.
‘Thanks to Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II, we’ve all seen the impact plastic has on the natural world. We also know that 90% of seabirds have eaten plastic, and the public is increasingly frustrated by excessive plastic packaging and demanding action now.’
Greenpeace UK oceans campaigner
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