UK Bans Microbeads to Protect the Earth’s Oceans

Conservationists are celebrating a ban on microbeads in the UK, which went into effect last week as part of an effort to protect the earth’s oceans from plastic pollution.

Microbeads are found in a range of personal care products, including exfoliating scrubs, soap and some toothpaste, and although they’re nearly microscopic in size, collectively they’ve been found to cause big problems after they get washed down our drains and make their way to waterways and oceans.

An even more worrying problem is that along with the chemicals they already contain, these tiny pieces of plastic can absorb even more pollutants, including pesticides, motor oil, PCBs and other industrial chemicals, and turn into a toxic meal for fish and other animals who mistake them for food, and then into a larger threat as they make their way up through the food chain.

Now, supporters and organizations that have been campaigning to end their use are celebrating what’s being hailed as one of the toughest bans passed yet. As of now, microbeads will no longer be allowed to be manufactured for cosmetics and personal care products, and that step will be followed by a ban on selling them later this summer.

Greenpeace UK, Fauna and Flora International, the Marine Conservation Society and the Environmental Investigation Agency said in a joint statement, “We are really pleased that the microbeads ban recommended by our organisations two years ago is now coming into force. The law introduced by the UK Government is world-leading because it overcomes major loopholes identified in other bans and voluntary measures around the world.”

Now it’s hoped that this will lead the way for further action on all types of microplastics that could make their way to waterways, in addition to other plastic items. The ban going into force comes just ahead of the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, which aims to restore environmental health, in addition to protecting it.

The government already implemented a plastic bag fee in 2015, which it says has taken nine billion bags out of circulation, and it intends to expand it to all retailers. The Guardian notes that efforts are underway to crack down on the use of other plastics, including the consideration of a bottle deposit return scheme, a tax on single-use plastic items and other potential reforms that would hold producers accountable for the packaging they’re using.

“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,”  said Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey. “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.”

Hopefully the steps being taken now to stop the wasteful production and use of plastic will help encourage more people to look for alternatives, and the leadership shown on this issue in the UK and elsewhere will set an example for even more nations to follow.

Photo credit: MPCA Photos/Flickr

65 comments

Marie W
Marie Wabout a month ago

thank you for sharing

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Claire J
Claire Jeffrey3 months ago

TFS

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KimJ M
KimJ M4 months ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M4 months ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M4 months ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M4 months ago

Tfs

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Sonia M
Sonia M6 months ago

Good news,thanks for sharing

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FOTEINI c
FOTEINI chormpou6 months ago

after all they weren't doing any good to skin like other products. just one more useless product who pollutes water!

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heather g
heather g6 months ago

I thought the outcry would stop corporations from using microbeads. The Vancouver Aquarium took samples of water in Howe Sound and found something like 100-9,000 pieces of plastic per sq. metre.

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Daniela M
Daniela M6 months ago

This is GREAT news! Which country will follow? We need a worldwide ban. Ty for the great news!

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