Landmark microbead ban takes effect

Published on
January 9, 2018

A ban on the manufacture of products containing so-called “microbeads” has come into force in the United Kingdom in an attempt to reduce plastics entering oceans.

Microbeads are used in many different cosmetic products such as face scrubs, toothpastes and shower gels, but it is estimated that trillions of the tiny pieces of plastic are currently in the world's oceans, where they are being ingested by marine life, including fish and crustaceans, and entering food chains.

“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,” said Thérèse Coffey, U.K. environment minister. “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,” she said.

The crackdown, which is being viewed as one of the world's toughest bans on the harmful pieces of plastic, has been welcomed by campaigners and NGOs.

“We are delighted that such a robust microbead ban has come into force. This is the strongest and most comprehensive ban to be enacted in the world and will help to stem the flow of micro-plastics into our oceans,” Sue Kinsey, senior pollution officer at the Marine Conservation Society, said. “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.”

A ban on the sale of products containing microbeads will follow later in the year.

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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