LONDON: A UK-wide ban on the manufacture of products containing microbeads has come into force today (9 January) – a “landmark step” in the introduction of one of the world’s toughest bans on these harmful pieces of plastic.
Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey has announced that 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.
Defra says these beads can cause “serious harm” to marine life, and that the UK’s ban – praised by campaigners as one of the “toughest in the world” – will help to stop billions of microbeads ending up in the ocean every year.
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.”
Dr Sue Kinsey, Senior Pollution Officer at the Marine Conservation Society, said: “We are delighted that such a robust microbead ban has come into force. 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 this is a first step on this road before we see further actions to combat plastic waste.”
Today’s announcement comes ahead of the government’s upcoming 25 Year Environment Plan, expected this week, which will set out how we will be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it and create clean, healthy and productive oceans.
A ban on the sale of products containing microbeads will follow later in the year.
Plastics & Marine Litter
The Government recently announced it will hold a consultation on taxing and charging “environmentally damaging” single-use plastics. The consultation will include “packaging and bubble wrap, polystyrene takeaway boxes and throwaway coffee cups”.
The Government also recently announced a consultation that will look into a deposit return system for plastic drinks containers.
Recently released Defra figures show the number of litter items found on the sea floor around the UK has risen 150% in a year.
More than 8m tonnes of plastic are discarded into the world’s oceans each year, putting marine wildlife under serious threat, it says.
Up to 80% of this is estimated to have been originally lost or discarded on land before washing out to sea, and plastic bottles are a particular concern, Defra says – with figures showing just 57% of those sold in the UK in 2016 collected for recycling.