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Published - 03/09/2016

Government announces ban on microbeads - Joint NGO response

A coalition of environmental groups has welcomed a government announcement that it intends to ban microbeads from personal care products but pointed out that the current proposals don’t go far enough.

The announcement comes just months after conservation charities launched a joint campaign asking the government to ban microbeads - tiny bits of plastic found in cosmetics and other consumer goods. These microplastics are so small they cannot be captured by filters and end up in the oceans where they become magnets for toxic chemicals and can harm marine life.

The proposals the government will consult on would see microbeads banned from products such as face scrubs and toothpastes, but not washing powders and floor cleaners. However, the consultation will seek evidence on whether there is justification for extending the ban to household products, and also on how to mitigate the impacts of microplastic pollution from a wider range of sources, including pellets lost during plastic production (nurdles), fleeces and tyres.

So far, over 350,000 members of the British public have signed a petition calling for a microbeads ban, making it one of the largest the UK has ever seen on an environmental issue.

Responding to the government’s announcement, the Environmental Investigation Agency, Fauna & Flora International, Greenpeace, and the Marine Conservation Society said in a joint statement:

“It’s encouraging to see that the government is taking people’s concerns about microbeads seriously, and it’s great that the scope of this consultation is so broad-ranging. However, we are disappointed that currently the proposed ban would not extend to all consumer products. “Fish don’t care whether the plastic they’re eating has come from a face wash rather than a washing powder. Once in the ocean, the microplastics in these products have the same damaging effects on marine life, so banning some but not others makes little sense.

“We will be urging Theresa May’s government to extend the proposed ban to all consumer products that could discharge microbeads into our seas. A comprehensive and consistent microbeads ban such as this would place the UK at the top table when it comes to global stewardship of our oceans, and really give us something to be proud of.

“Not only would a comprehensive UK microbeads ban be a significant step towards eliminating plastic pollution from our oceans, but it would also embolden other governments across the world to take steps against microbeads and other sources of plastic pollution. This is a global problem requiring global action.

“We look forward to contributing to this consultation, and fully expect to be welcoming a ban on all solid microplastic ingredients from all consumer products within the next few months.”

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