The UK finally bans plastic microbeads in cosmetics!

Back in 2016, a report by the Environmental Audit Committee called for a recommended ban of plastic microbeads in cosmetic products. The microbeads, which are made from a variety of plastics and are often found in facial scrubs, shower gels and toothpastes, are so small that they bypass filters in the waste waster systems and end up in the ocean. An estimated 51 trillion pieces have accumulated in our seas and we are only just beginning to understand how they are impacting wildlife, as many fish and birds eat them by mistake. It is something that is really easy to stop – banning microbeads is the way forward.

Toothpaste 4

So, it was with great delight that an announcement on 2nd September 2016 from the UK government backed the banning of microbeads in cosmetic products – with no microbeads being allowed in scrubs and toothpastes by some time in 2017. We now know, after a press release from Environmental Secretary, Michael Gove on 21st July, that we have a date set. Microbeads will be banned from ALL personal care and cosmetics products by 30th June 2018. 

Good news?

This, of course, is great news and brings forward the voluntary ban that some cosmetic companies had already outlined for 2020. But there are still flaws. The critical part of this ban is the terminology.

‘Cosmetic product’ can mean many things to many manufacturers, plus microbeads are often found in cleaning products for the home and in industry – not just in our bathroom cabinets. So if we are banning microbeads in cosmetic products, surely we need to ban microbeads in all products?

As Greenpeace’s ocean campaigner, Louise Edge rightly stated,

‘… marine life doesn’t distinguish between plastic from a face wash and plastic from a washing detergent, so it makes no sense for this ban to be limited to some products and not others, as is currently proposed.’

Mary Creagh, the Labour MP and chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, agreed, saying:

‘I’m pleased to see the Government has finally agreed with my Committee’s call for a ban on microbeads. Fish don’t care where the plastic they are eating comes from, so it’s vital the ban covers all microplastics in all down the drain products.’

So this is a welcome start – but one that we can certainly build on. Until we have NO unnecessary plastics in any of our products, we are washing away materials that will almost never degrade in the environment. Till then, check out our post about how you can avoid microbeads yourself…

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