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Microbead ban comes into force

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Campaigners are celebrating after the use of microbeads in UK manufactured personal care products was banned.

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. The move came about as these 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.

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 the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), the Environmental Investigation Agency, Greenpeace UK and Fauna & Flora International.

Dr Laura Foster, MCS Head of Clean Seas, described the move as a hugely important first step but added that 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,” she said.

MCS Senior Pollution Policy Officer, Dr Sue Kinsey, added: “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 that this is a first step on this road before we see further actions to combat plastic waste.”

And the Environment Minister continued: “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.”

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

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