Ban on Plastic Microbeads Finally Launched in the UK


Microbeads that wash down drains can not be filtered out by many wastewater treatment plants, meaning that tiny plastics slip easily into waterways.

The move was particularly welcomed by the environmental community, although many pointed out the additional work that needs to be accomplished to properly tackle plastic pollution.

"Microbeads in cosmetics are an avoidable part of the problem, which is why we called for a ban".

Friends of the Earth waste campaigner, Julian Kirby, described the ban on microbeads in rinse-off cosmetics and cleaning products as "an important step towards protecting wildlife and human health from the scourge of plastic pollution".

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What's more, the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association said last month that much of what's intended by the ban has already been achieved by a voluntary plan undertaken by the industry.

"The world's 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 the UK's environmental minister Thérèse Coffey, according to the Guardian.

Manufacturers of cosmetics and personal care products are prohibited from adding the tiny particles to face scrubs, toothpastes, shower gels and other products, Environment Minister Therese Coffey said.

"We are delighted that such a robust microbead ban has come into force".

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"With [BBC One programme] Blue Planet II awakening public horror at what plastic pollution is doing to whales and other wildlife, and the current crisis created by China's refusal to take all but the UK's best quality recycling, it's clear that a wholesale review of United Kingdom waste prevention policies is desperately needed".

Pressure is now mounting for action on plastic bottles - a million are bought every minute around the world and they make up a third of the plastic litter in the seas. While microbeads represent only a small percentage of those plastics, there is growing concern about their presence in oceans, lakes and rivers.

Microbeads are tiny plastic orbs manufactured for household products like shower gels, deodorants, sun creams, makeup and lotions, and are used for their exfoliating or abrasive effect.

Dr David Santillo of the Greenpeace science unit, based at Exeter University, said that most microbeads were polyethylene, which can absorb toxins in seawater.

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Waste consultant Eunomia says about 130,000 tonnes of plastic from paint on buildings ends up in the ocean every year, and some 80,000 tonnes from road paint - this is quite considerably more than the 35,000 tonnes that come from cosmetics. "To tackle it properly, you need a wholesale look at waste provision policy".