No more microbeads in UK manufactured personal care products

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 9 January 2018

Manufacturers of cosmetics and personal care products will no longer be able to add tiny pieces of plastic known as ‘microbeads’ to rinse-off products such as face scrubs, toothpastes and shower gels.

Micro_Ban_M
© MPCA

There are lots of products that are not included in the ban which will continue to be made and sold that contain microplastic ingredients. The next step should be to consider extending the scope of the ban to more products such as suncreams and make-ups that are in common use.

Dr Laura Foster,
MCS Head of Clean Seas

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey announced the ban, which follows a public consultation launched last year, after increasing calls to get rid of microbeads in personal care products led by a coalition of environmental organisations made up of MCS, the Environmental Investigation Agency, Greenpeace UK and Fauna & Flora International.

Welcoming the ban Dr Laura Foster, Head of Clean Seas at MCS, says it’s a hugely important first step but more still needs to be done: “There are lots of products that are not included in the ban which will continue to be made and sold that contain microplastic ingredients. The next step should be to consider extending the scope of the ban to more products such as suncreams and make-ups that are in common use.”

The tiny bits of plastic can cause serious harm to marine life. They’re designed to be washed down the drain but are too small to filter out during wastewater treatment. Once they’re out in the wild, microbeads can easily be ingested by marine animals. “If someone eats six oysters, it is likely they will have eaten 50 particles of microplastics,” said Mary Creagh, chair of the Commons Environmental Audit Committee who heard evidence from MCS Senior Pollution Policy Officer, Dr Sue Kinsey, among others last year.

“We are delighted that such a robust microbead ban has come into force,” said Dr Kinsey. “This is the strongest and most comprehensive ban to be enacted in the world and will help to stem the flow of micro plastics 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 hope that this is a first step on this road before we see further actions to combat plastic waste.”

The UK ban will help to stop billions of microbeads ending up in the ocean every year. Alongside the success of the government’s 5p plastic bag charge – which has taken nine billion bags out of circulation – the ban puts the UK at the forefront of international efforts to crack down on plastic pollution.

Environment Minister Thérèse 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.”

Dilyana Mihaylova, Projects Manager at Fauna and Flora International, said: ” We hope that this ban signals the dawn of a new era in the fight for cleaner, healthier oceans, with the UK leading the way and supporting other countries to ensure that plastic will no longer reach the environment.”

A ban on the sale of products containing microbeads will follow later in the year.

MCS is currently calling on UK governments to put a charge on single-use plastic throwaway items and demanding that big fast food chains stop giving out millions of plastic cups, stirrers, straws and cutlery but instead replace them with reusable or fully compostable alternatives.

Actions you can take

  1. Help us stop the plastic tide
  2. Download the Great British Beach Clean Report 2017

Did you know?…

On UK beaches levels of litter have doubled in the past 20 years

UK Seas provide us with resources from fish to renewable marine energy

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

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