Microbeads ban for January 2018 as Gove promises UK lead in ocean plastics fight

Plastic microbeads in cosmetic products are to be banned in the UK following a public consultation, new Environment Secretary Michael Gove confirmed during his first speech since returning to the government.

Cosmetics producers ‘all over the shop’ in phasing out polluting plastic microbeadsThe ban, preparation for which started during the last government, is part of greater action on ocean plastics and litter pledged by Gove today, with the government also exploring ways to reduce the use of commonly littered items such as drink bottles, considering deposit and reward and return schemes, and bringing forward legislation to help councils tackle littering from vehicles.

Microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic that are used as exfoliants in cosmetics and personal care products, such as toothpaste and face wash. These pieces of plastic, less than five millimetres wide, are so small that they can pass through water filtration systems and enter the the marine environment, where they are often confused as food and ingested by marine wildlife.

While the exact effects of these microbeads on marine wildlife, and on the health of humans that later eat them, are still being explored, ocean-dwelling creatures are still exposed to an incredible amount of microplastics every year – with estimates saying there are already more than 150 million tonnes of plastics in the ocean today, with 35,000 tonnes of microplastics entering the oceans every year.