Tough UK ban on microbeads comes into force to protect aquatic life

The UK has banned products containing plastic microbeads
The UK has banned products containing plastic microbeads Image: MPCA Photos on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons

One of the world’s toughest bans on products containing plastic microbeads has come into force in the UK.

Typically found in mildly abrasive personal care products such as toothpaste and body scrubs, which are then washed off to enter the waste water system, and ultimately our rivers and seas, the tiny plastic particles can cause serious harm to aquatic and marine life.

Coming into effect on 9 January 2018, 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.

Plastic microbeads are not only harmful but also unnecessary, as they can be replaced by natural and biodegradable alternatives.

Defra Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said: “From today, cosmetics manufacturers will no longer be able to add this harmful plastic to their rinse-off products.”

Dr Sue Kinsey, Senior Pollution Officer at the Marine Conservation Society, said: “We are delighted that such a robust microbead ban has come into force. This is the strongest and most comprehensive ban to be enacted in the world and will help to stem the flow of micro plastics into our oceans.”

A ban on the sale of products containing microbeads will follow later in the year.

“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.” added Ms Coffey.