Environment Secretary Micheal Gove has announced that microbeads in ‘rinse off’ cosmetic products will be banned.
Microbeads can be catastrophic for the environment as they enter the world’s oceans and can be swallowed by wildlife.
The Government has been consulting over whether to ban the tiny plastic beads which can be found in grooming products including exfoliators, toothpaste and shower gel.
Now it will be implementing legislation that will come into place next year, with manufacture outlawed from January 1, and sale from June 30.
In a speech today – his first major speech since becoming Environment Secretary – Gove confirmed the manufacture and sale of the beads will be banned through the legislation. He also pledged to cut plastic waste in the oceans.
He said: “Eight million tons of plastic are discarded into the world’s oceans each year, putting marine wildlife under serious threat.
“Last year the Government launched a consultation on banning microbeads in personal care products, which have such a devastating effect on marine life.
“We are responding to that consultation today and we will introduce legislation to implement that ban later this year.
“But there is more we can do to protect our oceans, so we will explore new methods of reducing the amount of plastic – in particular plastic bottles – entering our seas.”
Campaigners are pleased about the news. Tanya Steele, Chief Executive of WWF-UK, said: “Banning microbeads is an important start to addressing the millions of tons of plastics entering the oceans every year.
“Microbeads are one of the most pervasive forms of marine pollution and prevention at source is far more effective than clean-up at sea.
“The ban needs to be as extensive as possible, to cover all products: there must be no loopholes or exemptions. Ocean creatures don’t distinguish between different cosmetics.”
The new legislation only covers microbeads in rinse-off products.
This is something covered in the document by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs [Defra].
While it said some people had called for the ban to be extended, it said others claimed ‘there was a lack of evidence of environmental impact and that reformulating these products would be difficult’.
“Responses from the cosmetics industry indicated that the reformulation of thousands of products would be required,” said the report.
“They stated that some companies may require up to 90 per cent of their product portfolios to be reformulated.
“They noted that reformulation is lengthy and expensive and as such would have significant cost implications for the whole industry, particularly small companies, could damage global competitiveness, restrict consumer choice and could mean that large quantities of products would have to go to landfill if insufficient time were given for reformulation.”
Dr Laura Foster, head of the Marine Conservation Society’s pollution programme, called the ban ‘great news’, but added: “It should be for all microplastics that can end up going down the drain.
“We know there are companies that produce products that don’t have [microplastic], so it is possible.”