Microbead ban comes into force in the UK

Published on
June 25, 2018

A ban on the sale of products containing microbeads has come into effect in the United Kingdom as part of government efforts to prevent these harmful pieces of plastic entering the marine environment.

Retailers across England and Scotland are no longer 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, toothpastes and shower gels.

“Microbeads might be tiny, but they are lethal to sea creatures and entirely unnecessary,” U.K. Environment Secretary Michael Gove said. “We have led the way in banning these toxic pieces of plastic, but this is by no means the end in our fight.”

Gove said that government would now “press ahead” with its proposals for a deposit return scheme on plastic bottles and bans other damaging plastic such as straws, stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds.

It is also exploring how other microplastic sources enter the marine environment. Last month, GBP 200,000 (USD 265,147, EUR 227,159) was pledged by the U.K. 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 waterways and oceans. 

Earlier this year, it also launched the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance to help eliminate single use plastic and address marine plastic pollution across the Commonwealth. As part of this, member states have pledged to take action on plastics, be this by a ban on microbeads or committing to eliminate avoidable plastic waste.

Sue Kinsey, a senior pollution policy officer at the Marine Conservation Society, was among those voicing support for the microbead ban. 

“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," Kinsey said.

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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