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The U.K. Has Banned Microbeads.

Microbeads causing big problems for the world’s oceans

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robert99 robert99 Sweden Posts: 1360
1 11 Jan 2018

They’re tiny, colorful and harmless-looking, but these little pellets are being blamed for causing big problems for the world’s oceans and seas.

The items in question are plastic microbeads, and on Tuesday, Britain made good on a pledge to ban the manufacturing of personal care products containing them.

So what are these pellets, and what’s all the fuss about?
What are microbeads?

Microbeads are itty-bitty plastic orbs that can be found in exfoliating facial scrubs, shower gels and toothpaste, among other products. They are part of a larger class of microplastics, or pieces of plastic less than five millimeters, or 0.2 inch, long. (Roughly the size of a grain of rice.)

Microplastics exist elsewhere, too. They can be found in chewing gum, industrial cleaning products, synthetic clothing fibers and tires.

Why are they in cosmetics?

Manufacturers including Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble have advertised the exfoliating powers of microbeads, particularly in face and body scrubs.

Many of those companies have pledged to voluntarily phase out use of the pellets.

What’s the problem?

About eight million tons of plastic enter the world’s oceans each year, according to a 2015 report by the journal Science. While microbeads represent only a small percentage of those plastics, there is growing concern about their presence in oceans, lakes and rivers.

Microbeads that wash down drains cannot be filtered out by many wastewater treatment plants, meaning that tiny plastics slip easily into waterways. Fish and other marine animals often eat them, introducing potentially toxic substances into the food chain.

A single shower can flush as many as 100,000 microbeads, according to a 2016 report by the Environmental Audit Committee of the House of Commons in Britain. That adds up pretty quickly.
What is Britain doing?

The government pledged in September 2016 to ban the manufacturing of cosmetic products with microbeads, and that ban took full effect on Tuesday. A ban on the sale of such products will come later this year.

“The world’s seas and oceans are some of our most valuable natural assets, and I am determined we act now to tackle the plastic that devastates our precious marine life,” Thérèse Coffey, the British environment minister, said in a statement.

Sue Kinsey, a senior pollution officer at the Marine Conservation Society, called the microbead ban “the strongest and most comprehensive ban to be enacted in the world.”

Where else are they banned?

The United States passed the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, which required companies to stop using microbeads in beauty and health products by July 2017, and Canada’s ban on manufacturing the pellets took effect at the beginning of this year.

New Zealand’s ban on microbeads is to take effect in June. Several countries in the European Union have campaigned for a similar ban.

robert99 robert99 Sweden Posts: 1360
2 12 Jan 2018
In Australia -
Coles, Woolworths and Aldi are the latest companies to agree to phasing out microbeads in Australia as global momentum builds to completely abolish use of the hazardous particles in cosmetics.

The supermarkets have committed to phase out microbeads from their own-brand products by 2017, joining a growing list of companies that have already taken a stance against them, including Unilever, Beiersdorf and The Body Shop.

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt announced last December that state and territory governments had agreed to a voluntary phase-out of microbeads in Australia by no later than July 2018.

It's difficult to tell if a product contains microbeads as many manufacturers don't list them in the ingredient list or they list them by the plastic used to make them, such as polyethylene or polypropylene.

If you're interested in avoiding microbeads in your cosmetics, the Beat the Microbead website (see ) has a list of products that contain them. Alternatively, you can download the app (see ) which can tell you if a product contains microbeads by simply scanning the barcode with your smartphone camera.