Government confirms microbead ban

Washing hands

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has confirmed that plastic microbeads in cosmetics and toiletries will be banned in the UK this year.

New legislation will form part of a wider attack on plastic making its way into our oceans, which includes plastic bags: the government also released new figures showing plastic bag use has decreased by 83 per cent since a 5p charge was introduced in 2015.

"Eight million tonnes of plastic are discarded into the world's oceans each year, putting marine wildlife under serious threat," says Michael Gove, speaking at WWF UK.

"In October 2015, the government introduced the 5p carrier bag charge. Figures released today show that policy's enormous success – nine billion fewer carrier bags distributed since the charge was introduced, a fall of 83 per cent. More than £95 million raised from the charge has been donated to environmental, educational and other good causes.

"Last year the government launched a consultation on banning microbeads in personal care products, which have such a devastating effect on marine life. We are responding to that consultation today and we will introduce legislation to implement that ban later this year.

"But there is more we can do to protect our oceans, so we will explore new methods of reducing the amount of plastic – in particular plastic bottles – entering our seas, improve incentives for reducing waste and litter, and review the penalties available to deal with polluters – all part of a renewed strategy on waste and resources that looks ahead to opportunities outside the EU."

Environmental groups have welcomed the news. Greenpeace, in a statement headed 'Microbeads – We Won!', noted that 'the announcement from the government today made clear that the ban does cover so-called "biodegradable" plastics (as there's no evidence these actually do biodegrade in the marine environment)' and that the UK will nudge in the ban one day before the USA. Expect to see no all personal care and cosmetic products containing microbeads taken off shop shelves by June 30th 2018.