The Government has announced plans to ban the tiny pieces of plastic, commonly known as microbeads as part of its action to tackle microplastics which end up in the oceans every year, causing damage to both the environment and marine life.
Found in wide range of cosmetics and personal care products such as face scrubs, toothpaste and shower gels, a consultation will be launched later this year, with the intention to ban the sale and manufacture of such products containing microbeads.
At the same time, evidence will be gathered on the extent of the environmental impacts of microbeads found elsewhere, such as in household and industrial cleaning products, before considering what more can be done in future to tackle other plastics, for example microfibers, which enter the marine environment.
In a statement, environment secretary Andrea Leadsom said:
“‘Most people would be dismayed to know the face scrub or toothpaste they use was causing irreversible damage to the environment, with billions of indigestible plastic pieces poisoning sea creatures.
“Adding plastic to products like face washes and body scrubs is wholly unnecessary when harmless alternatives can be used.
“This is the next step in tackling microplastics in our seas following the success of the 5p plastic bag charge, and I look forward to working with industry and environmental groups.”
Manufacturers are exploring natural alternatives such as nut shells, salt and sugar which whilst having exfoliating properties do not pose any harm to the environment.
To date, 25 cosmetic and toiletry companies, including Unilever, have already taken action to voluntarily phase microbeads from their products.
The Government aims to change legislation by next year.