UK introducing one of world’s ‘toughest bans’ on microbeads


A ban on the manufacture of products containing microbeads has gone into force in the UK – a landmark step in the introduction of one of the world’s toughest bans on these harmful pieces of plastic.

cEnvironment 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.

These damaging beads can cause serious harm to marine life, but 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. Alongside the success of the government’s 5p plastic bag charge – which has taken nine billion bags out of circulation – the ban puts the UK at the forefront of international efforts to crack down on plastic pollution.

As 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.”

Fauna & Flora International, the world’s first international wildlife conservation organisation which had been working to address the issue of plastic microbead pollution since 2009, said it was ‘delighted’ that the Government took such a clear stand on this issue. and that the UK had pushed through a stringent microbeads ban.

“We hope this ban signals the dawn of a new era in the fight for cleaner, healthier oceans, with the UK leading the way and supporting other countries to ensure that plastic will no longer reach the environment,” said Dilyana Mihaylova, Marine Plastics Projects Manager at FFI.

The Marine Conservation Society, too, is thrilled. Dr Sue Kinsey, Senior Pollution Officer at the Marine Conservation Society, said that this is the strongest and most comprehensive ban to be enacted in the world.
She added: “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.”

The announcement on Jan 9 came ahead of the government’s upcoming 25 Year Environment Plan.
A ban on the sale of products containing microbeads will follow later in the year.