The UK government recently announced plans to ban the sale and manufacture of cosmetics and personal care products containing tiny pieces of plastic, commonly known as ‘microbeads’.
Each year, billions of tiny beads enter our seas from a range of cosmetic products such as facial scrubs, toothpastes and shower gels. These build up in the marine environment and can end up in the stomachs of sea creatures, where they cannot be digested.
Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Michelle McIlveen, said: “This is good news for the environment and good news for the public. Most people would be dismayed to know that the face scrub or toothpaste they use was causing irreversible damage to sea life.
“I was surprised to learn that up to 680 tonnes of microbeads are used in cosmetic products in the UK every year, so removing these from circulation will have a major impact. Manufacturers are exploring natural alternatives, including nut shells, salt and sugar, which have the same exfoliating properties but do not pose a threat to the environment.”
Notes to editors:
- The USA recently became the first country to announce they will ban microbead use in cosmetics, with pressure growing globally to take action.
- The European Commission is developing proposals to ban microbeads in cosmetics across the EU, following calls from the UK and all other member states.
- The UK’s Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA) has said it expects the large majority of UK cosmetics will be microbead-free by the end of 2017.
- Plans on the extent of the ban will be informed by a formal consultation later this year.
- The announcement on the ban on microbeads follows the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee Report on the subject. This is available from the Parliament UK website.
- The problem of marine litter in Northern Ireland is being addressed through the Marine Litter Strategy website.
- The public can get involved in tackling litter through the Live Here Love Here campaign, co-sponsored by DAERA and delivered by Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful.
- For information on how sanitary items should be disposed of please see the Northern Ireland Water webpage.
- Among the measures being taken to reduce marine litter is the carrier bag levy. Since the levy was introduced on 8 April 2013 there are approximately 198.8 million fewer carrier bags in circulation in Northern Ireland, helping to stop plastic bags polluting our waters.
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