A ban on plastic microbeads has now come into force in the UK.
Microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic that are used in cosmetics and care products, such as exfoliating scrubs, toothpastes and shower gels.
But they are terrible for animals and the environment. When they are washed down the drain, they enter the seas and are swallowed by fish and crustaceans – with potentially harmful effects.
Now, manufacturers will no longer be allowed to add the tiny plastic pieces to rinse-off toiletries.
A further ban on the sale of products containing microbeads will come into force later in the year, the Government said.
Environment Minister Therese 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.’
Dr Sue Kinsey, senior pollution officer at the Marine Conservation Society, said this would be the strongest and most comprehensive ban on microbeads in the world.
‘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,’ she said.
Mary Creagh, chairwoman of the parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee, also praised the ban, but said that more needed to be done to tackle plastic pollution.
‘Our seas are choked with massive quantities of polluting microplastics, which absorb chemicals, are eaten by wildlife and enter the food chain,’ she said.
‘Microbeads in cosmetics are an avoidable part of the problem, which is why we called for a ban.’
She added: ‘Since we called for a ban, my committee has also recommended a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles, a latte levy for plastic-lined coffee cups, and reforms to make producers responsible for their packaging. We look forward to hearing the Government’s response.’