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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Treehugger Tuesday

The UK will outlaw plastic microbeads in the coming year. From businessGreen:

Government Plans to Ban Microbeads by October 2017
Michael Holder
20 December 2016

Defra plans to change legislation by October 2017 to end UK sale of toiletry products containing tiny pieces of plastic harmful to marine life

By the end of October 2017 the government aims to have banned the sale of cosmetics and personal care products containing micro beads, according to new plans published today.

The two-month consultation sets out the government's strategy to fulfill its promise earlier this year to ban microbeads, tiny particles of plastic which are harmful to marine life. The document also looks at what more can be done in the future to prevent other sources of plastic from entering the marine environment.

Ahead of any legislative change, however, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is urging Christmas shoppers to avoid products containing microbeads in favour of those which use natural alternatives.

Microbeads - tiny pieces of plastic often added as exfoliators to toiletry products such as face scrubs, toothpastes and shower gels - can get into waterways and oceans, potentially causing serious harm to marine life, while there are also concerns surrounding the potential impact on human health.

A single shower can send up to 100,000 beads down the drain, according to the government, which first revealed its intention to ban microbeads back in September.

Many companies have already taken steps to voluntarily phase out microbeads from the products they manufacture or sell, but MPs on Parliament's Environmental Audit Committee earlier this year called for an industry-wide ban, claiming the voluntary approach would not be effective enough.

Announcing the two-month consultation today, Defra Secretary Andrea Leadsom said the proposals showed the UK takes its responsibility to marine life around the world very seriously.

"It's encouraging many retailers and manufacturers are already taking action to phase out microbeads, but today we are making sure that in future they will have no place in personal care products, like shower gels and face scrubs, that end up going down the drain," she said in a statement.

Defra added that products containing no microbeads but with the same exfoliating properties were already "readily available" on the market, with many manufacturers using natural alternatives such as nut shells, salt and sugar instead of plastic.

Commenting on the proposed ban, Dominic Winter, sustainability manager at retailer Neal's Yard Remedies, said the firm had never used microplastics in any of its products. "There are a range of highly effective natural, sustainable options when purchasing personal care products, with ingredients that have a hugely reduced impact on the environment," he said.

Dr Laura Foster, head of pollution at the Marine Conservation Society, also voiced her support for banning microbeads. "This consultation gives an opportunity to show the UK can be a world leader in improving the health of our oceans and reducing microplastic pollution," she said.

The consultation closes on February 28 2017.

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