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UK MPs urge government to ban microbeads

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Cosmetic companies should be banned from using plastic microbeads in products like exfoliating scrubs and toothpaste because of the marine pollution they are causing, the UK’s cross-party Environmental Audit Committee is urging.

“Trillions of tiny pieces of plastic are accumulating in the world’s oceans, lakes and estuaries, harming marine life and entering the food chain,” said Environmental Audit Committee Chair Mary Creagh, MP. “The microbeads in scrubs, shower gels and toothpastes are an unavoidable part of this plastic pollution problem.”

It is estimated that 86 tonnes of microplastics are released into the environment every year in the UK from facial exfoliants alone.

Most large cosmetics companies have made voluntary commitments to phase out microbeads by 2020, but Creagh said that cosmetic companies’ voluntary approach won’t be enough. The committee would like to see a national ban on microbeads by the end of 2017.

“We need a full legal ban, preferably at an international level, as pollution does not respect borders,” she said.

In January, US President Barack Obama signed a bill into law that would ban microbeads in the US by the end of 2018.

International beauty and spa therapy standard-setter CIDESCO also called on its global membership to replace products that use microbeads with safer alternatives.

Steve Malkin, CEO of Planet First, a specialist in sustainable business practice, explained the issue at the time.

“You cannot remove microbeads from the environment as they are too small to catch in water treatment, and they don’t degrade,” he said.

“The danger is that they will sit in our oceans and lakes forever to be ingested by fish and molluscs, damaging our ecosystems and entering our food chain.”

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Cosmetic companies should be banned from using plastic microbeads in products like exfoliating scrubs and toothpaste because of the marine pollution they are causing, the UK’s cross-party Environmental Audit Committee is urging.
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