The United Kingdom bans plastic microbeads

The United Kingdom bans plastic microbeads

Personal care products and cosmetics can no longer contain plastic microbeads if they are manufactured in the UK. The ban has entered into force today. In July, a ban on sales will follow.

Microbeads are very small solid plastic particles of less than five millimeters. They are mostly manufactured from polyethylene and used in toothpastes, personal care products such as soaps, face scrubs, shampoo, etc. Companies like Procter&Gamble advertised exfoliating power of microbeads, however under external pressure Procter&Gamble announced its intention “to remove plastic microbeads from all our cleansers and toothpastes by 2017”.

Microbeads are safe for people for external use, but the troubles starts when these tiny plastic particles get washed down the drain. They cause water pollution and ultimately get into the sea where they are being eaten by marine animals. As a result, microbeads go up the food chain and become part of people’s meals.

The plastic pollution problem should not be underestimated as a recent study shows that more than 5 trillion plastic pieces afloat at sea. Their overall weight reaches 250,000 tons.

“The world’s 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,” said the UK environment minister Thérèse Coffey cited by the Guardian. British government is committed to work on tackling other forms of plastic waste.

Plastic microbeads are already banned in a number of other countries. In 2015, former U.S. president Barack Obama signed a bill to outlaw microbeads in rinse-off products. Similar bans enter in force in New Zealand and Canada this year.


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