Ban on plastic microbeads comes into force in the UK

Ban on plastic microbeads comes into force in the UK
Tiny microbeads are too tiny to be filtered out using waste-water treatment processes

Tiny microbeads are too tiny to be filtered out using waste-water treatment processes

Science History Images / Alamy Stock Photo

A UK-wide ban on the manufacture of cosmetics and care products containing tiny pieces of plastic known as “microbeads” has come into force.

The move is aimed at protecting the marine environment from one source of plastic pollution, as microbeads are washed down the drain and can enter the seas and be swallowed by fish and crustaceans with potentially harmful effects.

Manufacturers of cosmetics and personal care products will no longer be able to add the tiny plastic pieces to rinse-off toiletries such as face scrubs, toothpastes and shower gels. The ban on the manufacture of products containing microbeads will be followed by a ban on the sale of such products in July.

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A report in 2016 found that more than a third of fish in the English Channel are contaminated with microscopic plastic debris from exfoliating skin scrubs, synthetic fabrics and other everyday products. Between 16 and 86 tonnes of plastic microbeads from facial exfoliants are washed down UK drains every year, said the report published by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology.

Environment Minister Therese Coffey said: “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.”

Read more: Plastic Age: How it’s reshaping rocks, oceans and life

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