Published: Wed, January 10, 2018
Money | By Armando Alvarado

Microbeads, risky to marine ecosystems, banned in United Kingdom

Microbeads, risky to marine ecosystems, banned in United Kingdom

A ban on the manufacture of products containing microbeads has come into force today - a landmark step in the introduction of one of the world's toughest bans on these harmful pieces of plastic.

Microbeads are used as exfoliants in personal care products, but these non-biodegradable bits of plastic are easily washed down drains and pass unfiltered through sewage treatment plants.

The ban was recommended by the UK Parliament's Environmental Audit Committee, which recently called for a tax on plastic-lined coffee cups and a deposit return program for plastic bottles, and wants to force producers to take more responsibility for their packaging.

BEAUTY, cleaning and health products containing microbeads are being banned in the UK.

Chris Flower, the director general of the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association, said in an email that most of the industry had already phased out microplastics in rinse-off products.

"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".

The huge problem of plastic pollution choking the oceans has gained a high profile with recent revelations that there are five trillion pieces of plastic floating in the world's seas and that the debris has reached the most remote parts of the oceans, Microbeads are a small but significant part of this which campaigners argued was the easiest to prevent. The Body Shop stopped using them in 2015 while Clearasil and Neutrogena products aimed to phase them out by the end of 2017.

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The beads are used in hundreds of different cosmetic products such as face washes and shower gels.

"But unfortunately, the ban does not cover a long list of products, such as sunscreen, lipstick and paints - and of course microbeads are only one part of the huge plastic pollution problem we now face".

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.

Mary Creagh MP, EAC chair, said: "The microbead ban is a step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done".

The ban - announced in September 2016 - would prevent billions of microbeads ending up in the ocean every year, the government said, putting the United Kingdom "at the forefront of worldwide efforts to crack down on plastic pollution".

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.

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