British government to confirm ban on ‘microbeads’ water pollutant

The ban would come into effect in 2017

Jon Stone
Saturday 03 September 2016 11:59 BST
The US is estimated to flush eight trillion of the small beads into its water system each day
The US is estimated to flush eight trillion of the small beads into its water system each day (Getty)

The Government is set to announce a ban on the water pollutant known as “microbeads” after a long campaign by environmentalists.

Microbeads are solid plastic particles. They are found in some toothpastes, body scrubs and other cosmetics and give products a “speckled” appearance.

The beads serve an aesthetic purpose but some manufacturers also claim they can help with exfoliation or cleaning.

The solid plastic particles however do not biodegrade and so can cause environmental damage when washed down the drain.

The beads are not filtered out by water treatment plants and it has been suggested that they can carry toxins once they themselves become contaminated.

Aquatic creatures have also been known to mistake the particles for food.

In May, Environment Minister George Eustice said the Government supported a ban on the substances, signaling a change in approach from previous a previous commitment to a voluntary phase-out.

He however stopped short of a timetable for the ban. The Independent now however understands that the Government will announce a ban at the weekend.

Such a ban would likely come into force in 2017. A Government consultation on how broad the ban should be is expected next week.

In December, last year former Green Party leader Natalie Bennett told The Independent that the Government should follow the US example and move to legislation.

In August, a cross-party environmental audit committee report demanded cosmetics companies be prohibited from musing microbeads.

Committee chair Mary Creagh MP claimed a plate of six oysters “can contain up to 50 particles of plastic” and called on more research to be done on the impact of microplastic consumption on human health.

“Trillions of tiny pieces of plastic are accumulating in the world’s oceans, lakes and estuaries, harming marine life and entering the food chain,” Ms Creagh added.

“The microbeads in scrubs, shower gels and toothpastes are an avoidable part of this plastic pollution problem. A single shower can result in 100,000 plastic particles entering the ocean.”

Some manufacturers have voluntarily removed microbeads from their products after consumer campaigners but they remain in others.

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