Microbeads ban under pressure

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 5 October 2017

Industry bodies seeking to water down measures for plastic microbeads in rinse-off products - we respond.

© Natasha Ewins

The proposed UK Government ban on microplastics in rinse off products is coming under pressure after leading cosmetics companies submitted a statement to the European Commission regarding the plans to introduce a legislative ban on plastic microbeads in the UK.

The industry body – the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA) - has lodged the formal objection saying that any ban should be limited to solid plastic particles used for cleansing or exfoliating, and that the current UK proposal goes too far.

MCS has joined forces with the Environmental Investigation Agency, Fauna & Flora International and Greenpeace UK to oppose the move. Dr Sue Kinsey, MCS Senior Pollution Policy Officer says: “Just when we thought the microbead ban was in the bag and there was light at the end of the tunnel for our seas, industry bodies are trying to water down the proposed UK legislation. The Cosmetics industry is trying to restrict the ban to exfoliating products – but that would still allow microplastics to reach our oceans.”

The full statement from all four organisations reads:
“Our seas have become a dumping ground for plastic waste including microplastics, which are just as harmful to marine wildlife and ecosystems as larger plastic items, even if they are less visible.

“Solid microplastic ingredients should never be used in products that are directly washed down the drain into our waterways. These ingredients include not only exfoliating microbeads, which have been well publicised, but also a range of other microplastic ingredients used for a variety of purposes that pose just as much of a threat to the marine environment.

“The ban announced by the UK government is world-leading in its ambition to successfully put a stop to this source of marine pollution and avoid the loopholes identified in other legislation around the world as well as in voluntary measures taken by UK companies to date. A weakening of the ban, as proposed by this industry statement, would prevent effective, robust legislation and would allow damaging microplastics to continue flowing into our seas.

“Pollution is pollution, regardless of the role a microplastic ingredient plays within a product. We therefore object to the idea of limiting the microbeads ban to include only exfoliating ingredients, and urge the government to continue to show leadership on this issue.”

Read the joint microbeads statement

Actions you can take

  1. Find out more about nurdles
  2. Join the Plastic Challenge
  3. NGO microbead briefing paper
  4. Join a beach clean
  5. Read our microbead ban position statement
  6. Learn about Deposit Return Systems

Did you know?…

Every day millions of microplastics enter the sea from personal care products such as scrubs and toothpastes

Over time, one plastic bottle bobbing along in the ocean can break down in to hundreds of tiny plastic pieces