Defra’s ‘world-leading’ microbeads ban comes into effect

18 June 2018

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19 June 2018

From today, retailers in England and Scotland will no longer be able to sell cosmetics and other personal care products that contain microbeads – commonly found in face scrubs and toothpastes. The sales ban follows the introduction of a manufacturing ban in January this year.

Image: MPCA Photos/Flickr

Microbeads are small plastic particles less than a millimetre in size made of polyethylene (PEF) – the most common plastic – or other petrochemical plastics. In the cosmetics industry, microbeads are used as an abrasive in products for an exfoliating effect.

While microbeads are also used in biomedical research, the ban does not extend to this use.

‘Microbeads might be tiny, but they are lethal to sea creatures and entirely unnecessary,’ said 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 UK follows countries such as the US, France, and Sweden, who have all taken steps to ban the manufacture, distribution, and sale of products containing microbeads.

Because of its size, a microbead can often pass through sewage treatment plants working to remove waste and contaminants from water coming from households, eventually entering rivers and oceans. Marine animals can mistake microbeads for food but they can be toxic, and have also been found to migrate up through the food chain.

The microbead ban forms part of the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs’ 25-Year Environment Plan, which aims to reduce plastic waste, improve the sustainable use of natural resources, and ensure clean air and water for the UK.  

By Georgina Hines

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