Following a ban in January on the manufacture of personal products containing microbeads, including shower gels, face scrubs and toothpastes, all such items will be banned from sale in England and Scotland from today.
The Government says it’s the final step in its world-leading efforts to prevent these harmful pieces of plastic entering the marine environment.
Retailers will no longer be able to sell rinse-off cosmetics and personal care products that contain microbeads.
But the UK’s leading marine charity, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), says although the ban on the manufacture and sale of personal care products containing microbeads is fantastic news, it’s only half the story. It says the ban must be now extended to all products that contain these tiny yet incredibly harmful pieces of plastic – and quickly.
“We are delighted that this robust microbead ban has come into force,” says Dr Sue Kinsey, Senior Pollution Policy Officer at the Marine Conservation Society. “This is the strongest and most comprehensive ban to be enacted in the world and will help to stem the flow of microplastics into our oceans.
“We believe that this signals a real commitment on the part of this Government to clean up our seas and beaches and we look forward to seeing further actions to combat plastic waste. The next step has to be to extend the scope of the ban to more products such as sun creams, make-ups and general cleaning products that are used every single day.
“100,000 people have taken part in the recent consultation on a plastic tax. The public clearly understands how important it is we turn the tide on plastic now. It’s time the UK government acknowledged the same and took further ground-breaking steps forward.”
Two years ago, the cross-party Environmental Audit Committee said increasing amounts of damage were being done to marine life as a result of plastic accumulating in our oceans leading to potential harm to human health.
Last year Scientists at Ghent University in Belgium calculated that shellfish lovers are eating up to 11,000 plastic fragments in their seafood each year and earlier this year, record levels of microplastics were found in Arctic sea ice. Up to 12,000 of the tiny plastic particles were discovered per litre of sea ice in samples taken from the Arctic Ocean in 2014 and 2015.
Dr Kinsey said that research revealed the problems of microplastics in our oceans are even more far-reaching than previously realised.
“A particular concern is the fact that much of that microplastic load will be released as ice melts. This highlights the absolute importance of stopping the flow of plastics to our oceans as soon as possible.
“We can and must act now to prevent further environmental harm to our oceans, wildlife, coastlines and potentially to human health.”
The Environmental Protection (Microbeads) (Wales) Regulations 2018 is being presented to the National Assembly for Wales in Plenary today, where AMs will debate and are expected to approve the legislation which is then likely to come into effect at the end of the month.