Government must avoid loopholes in microbeads ban

Date posted: 20 December 2016

Responding to reports that the Government’s consultation on microbeads will be launched this week, a joint statement by the Environmental Investigation Agency, Fauna and Flora International, Greenpeace UK and the Marine Conservation Society, said: We are very pleased to welcome the launch of this consultation, and we look forward to working with the Government to ensure that these tiny harmful plastics no longer reach our oceans.

However, it must cover all microplastics as marine life doesn’t distinguish between plastic from a face wash and plastic from a washing detergent, so the microbeads ban must cover all plastics in all household and industrial products that can go down our drains.

Our Government therefore has a choice. It can either follow the pack or choose to be a global leader in protecting our marine environment.

To be a leader, the UK microbeads ban must overcome the loopholes of the US ban and similar bans being proposed in other countries.

Specifically, we ask the government to follow the below guidelines recommended by the Environmental Audit Committee and developed by Fauna and Flora International: Any definition of ‘microbeads’ must include all solid plastic ingredients smaller than 5mm used for any purpose (not just for exfoliation). There should be no lower size limit included in the definition; The legislation should cover all products that are washed down the drain. This includes a wide range of cosmetic and personal care products as well as cleaning products, make-up, and other product categories; Legislation should not allow so-called ‘biodegradable’ plastics to be used as alternatives, as these materials do not degrade in the marine environment and therefore are not a solution to the problem;

There should be a clear and prompt timeline for phasing out these ingredients, and a date after which products containing microplastics must not be sold.

This should be within two years of the ban. Notes The Government announced its intention to ban microbeads on 3 September 2016, alongside proposing this consultation on the scope of such a ban.

Over two-thirds of the British public has backed a ban on microbeads.

Other bans on microbeads have fallen foul of loopholes.

In the United States, for example, the Microbead-Free Waters Act was limited to microbeads with “exfoliating” functions in “rinse-off” products, meaning many microplastics were excluded from the legislation.

The microbeads coalition which has campaigned for a ban on microbeads consists of: Environmental Investigation Agency, Fauna and Flora International, Greenpeace UK and the Marine Conservation Society.

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