Britain’s microbead ban comes into force

Britain’s microbead ban comes into force
Credit: Steve Cordory

The UK’s ban on the sale of products containing microbeads this week comes into effect which will prevent billions of microbeads ending up in the ocean each year.

Retailers across England and Scotland will now no longer be able to sell rinse-off cosmetics and personal care products that contain microbeads – the tiny pieces of plastic often added to products such as face scrubs, soaps, toothpaste and shower gels.

Just one shower alone is thought to send 100,000 microbeads down the drain and into the ocean, causing serious harm to marine life.

“Microbeads might be tiny, but they are lethal to sea creatures and entirely unnecessary,” said Environment Secretary, Michael Gove.

“We have led the way in banning these toxic pieces of plastic, but this is by no means the end in our fight.

“We will now press ahead with our proposals for a deposit return scheme and ban other damaging plastic such as straws.”

The announcement follows January’s ban on the manufacture of products containing microbeads.

It sits alongside the Government’s 5p plastic bag charge and recent proposals for a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles and a ban on the sale of plastic straws, stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds.

It also forms part of the 25 Year Environment Plan commitment to eliminate avoidable plastic waste and sits alongside the Treasury’s call for evidence on how changes to the tax system could be used to reduce single use plastics.

With the microbeads ban now in place, the Government is exploring how other microplastic sources enter our marine environment.

Last month £200,000 was pledged by the Government for scientists at the University of Plymouth to explore how tiny plastic particles from tyres, synthetic materials like polyester, and fishing gear – such as nets, ropes and lines – enter our waterways and oceans.

The Government also launched the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance earlier this year to help eliminate single use plastic and address marine plastic pollution across the Commonwealth. As part of this member states have pledged to take action on plastics, be this by a ban on microbeads or committing to eliminate avoidable plastic waste.