Microbeads ban: Government to outlaw microplastics in cosmetic products

The Government is to go ahead with a ban on “rinse-off” plastic microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products following a public consultation, it has announced.

The proposal comes amid increasing evidence that tiny plastic particles are damaging marine life and could even pose a serious risk to human health.

Exfoliating scrubs, shower gels and toothpaste are among the products to be affected.

The cosmetics industry resisted calls for “leave-on” products like make-up and sunscreen to be included in the ban, saying they would have to reformulate up to 90 per cent of their products, which would be “difficult” and “expensive”.

The Government, which will introduce the necessary legislation later this year, said an expert committee would consider whether other products should be included in the ban, which would be enforced by warnings and fines.

Greenpeace UK hailed the move as “the strongest ban on microbeads in the world to date”. The Marine Conservation Society also welcomed the announcement, but said microbeads should be banned from any product that was likely to end up being flushed “down the drain”.

The news came as Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, promised further action to reduce the amount of plastic waste getting into the sea, saying it was “putting marine wildlife under serious threat”.

In a summary of responses to the consultation by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), officials said that “based on this evidence the overall objective of our proposals remains to ban the use of rinse-off plastic microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products where there is clear and robust evidence of harm to the marine environment”.