A ban on the sale of products that contain plastic “microbeads”, including face scrubs, soaps, shower gels and toothpastes, comes into force today.
The ban on the sale of rinse-off cosmetics and personal care products that contain tiny pieces of plastic is part of efforts to prevent them being washed down the drain and ending up in rivers and seas. It is now in force across England and Scotland, while Wales and Northern Ireland are on track to introduce it by the autumn.
A single shower can send 100,000 microbeads down the drain and into the sea, where they can be eaten and absorbed by marine life. The ban will prevent billions of the plastic pieces ending up in the oceans each year, according to the government. Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “Microbeads might be tiny, but they are lethal to sea creatures and entirely unnecessary.”
The government has confirmed to HuffPost UK that the ban doesn’t include sun cream and makeup, just “products which are directly washed off into the water supply”.
An initial ban prohibiting the manufacture of rinse-off products containing microbeads came into place in January after a series of campaigns, with celebrities such as Ellie Goulding and Dougie Poynter backing the effort.
Including a wider range of products – such as suncream and makeup – in the ban, was resisted at the time, as the change was regarded to be “difficult” and “expensive” for the cosmetic industry, as it was claimed brands would need to reformulate 90% of their products, according to The Telegraph.
Jeroen Dagevos, head of programs at non-profit organisation Plastic Soup Foundation, which runs a Beat The Microbead campaign, has been at the forefront of the fight for a wider microbead ban. Earlier this month, he presented evidence of the plastic ingredients in a range of cosmetics products to the European Chemical Agency, an agency of the European Union that is currently reviewing a Europe-wide microbead ban.
He told HuffPost UK that he believed the range of products included in the manufacturing ban implemented in January was “vague and very arbitrary”.
However, Dr Sue Kinsey, senior pollution policy officer at the Marine Conservation Society, has welcomed the ban. “This is the strongest and most comprehensive ban to be enacted in the world so far and will help to stem the flow of microplastics into our oceans,” she said.
“We believe that this signals a real commitment on the part of [the] government to clean up our seas and beaches, and we look forward to seeing further actions to combat plastic waste.”
Wildlife charity WWF’s head of marine policy Dr Lyndsey Dodds wants to see this ban leading to more government action on plastic pollution.
“We may not see the havoc wreaked by ‘invisible’ plastics like microbeads, but there is growing evidence they’re contaminating every corner of the oceans and every type of sea creature, from shellfish to whales,” said Dr Dodds.
“The ban is a good step, but to tackle the tidal wave of plastic we need to think bigger than banning single sources. The UK government needs to ban all unnecessary single-use plastics by 2025 and turn the tide on our throwaway culture.”