Petition: Urgent UK action is needed to ban microbeads

Microbeads (c) Project Blue Sea

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Today, the Environmental Investigation Agency joins with Greenpeace UK, Fauna & Flora International and the Marine Conservation Society to launch a joint petition calling on Prime Minister David Cameron to enact a UK ban on the use of plastic microbeads in personal care and cosmetics products.

Please take a moment to sign the petition and share it with family and friends.

Toothpaste, by Thegreenj croppedMicrobeads, small microplastic particles less than 5mm in diameter, are added as inert ingredients in personal care products such as exfoliating scrubs, toothpastes and other cosmetics and as abrasives in domestic cleaning products. An estimated 15-51 trillion microplastic particles are already adrift in the world’s oceans. With each application of a microbead scrub, between 4,594 and 94,500 more microbeads could be washed down the drain.

Marine plastic pollution is now recognised as a major threat to marine biodiversity, with the occurrence of microplastics well documented throughout the marine environment – in the water column, at the sea surface, in sediments and even concentrated in Arctic Sea ice.

Given their small size, microbeads can be ingested by organisms throughout the food chain, from tiny plankton through to marine mammal megafauna, with recent studies indicating that they could be a major threat to the health of fin whales in the Mediterranean Sea. Also found in fish being sold for human consumption, concerns are now being raised as to how microplastics and their associated contaminants may impact human health.

Both the US and Canada have recently adopted legislation banning microbeads from cosmetics and there is growing political will from European Union Member States to do the same. Following NGO campaigns (such as the Good Scrub Guide), a number of cosmetics companies have made voluntary pledges to phase out the use of microbeads. However, with variable commitments and timescales from companies, there remains an urgent need for legislative action to speed progress, maintain commitments and ensure a level playing field for manufacturers.

EIA Oceans Campaigner Sarah Baulch said: “Microbeads are a totally unnecessary source of microplastic pollution that result in up to 80 tonnes of microplastic waste entering the sea every year from the UK alone, just from facial exfoliants. An outright ban on microplastics in personal care and other consumer products is urgently needed.

“It is time that David Cameron led the way in Europe and enacted a UK wide ban. A ban on microbeads is a simple step towards eliminating an unnecessary source of plastic pollution threatening the health of our oceans.”

  • Antoine Bisset

    A ban is essential, as is a ban on plastics in general. Have you analysed in detail the constituents of any of the garbage islands in the ocean?
    Recent news suggests that a significant proportion of Scottish seabirds have plastic balls in their gut.
    Time for action, methinks.
    Oh, and as for a petition, why not just blow a tanker load of beads into Parliament?