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Now is the time for UK Govt to act with microbeads ban

Responding to the Environmental Audit Committee’s report on microplastics, a joint statement by the Environmental Investigation Agency, Fauna & Flora International, Greenpeace UK and the Marine Conservation Society said:

An estimated eight million tonnes of plastic goes into our seas every year – and microbeads in household products including face scrubs, toothpastes and detergents are a part of this problem.

There was already huge public support for a ban on microbeads – with over 300,000 people backing our campaign – and now there’s political support which crosses party boundaries.

As a coalition of organisations sounding the alarm about the harm that microbeads can cause to marine life and our oceans, and even potentially to human health, it’s great that the Environmental Audit Committee has heard that loud and clear.

With companies dragging their feet on this issue, it’s now time for Theresa May’s Government to take comprehensive action on this crucial issue by banning any microplastics in household products which could end up going down the drain and into our seas.

Crucially, any legislation must be fully comprehensive to avoid the loopholes we have seen in company commitments. By removing these loopholes, the UK could show genuine environmental leadership and go beyond the US microbeads ban, which has various limitations around which types of ingredient and product it applies to.

Specifically, we ask the Government to follow the below guidelines, set out by our coalition (and as specifically recommended by today’s Environmental Audit Committee report):

  • any definition of ‘microbeads’ must include all solid microplastics 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 commonly washed down the drain. This includes a wide range of cosmetic and personal care products as well as many household cleaners 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 represent a false solution to the problem;
  • There should be a clear timeline for phasing out these ingredients and a date after which products containing microplastics must not be sold. Ideally this should be within two years of the ban.


For interviews and further information, please contact:

Environmental Investigation Agency: Paul Newman, Press & Communications Officer, [email protected], 0207 354 7960

Fauna & Flora International: Sarah Rakowski, Communications Manager, [email protected], 01223 747 659

Greenpeace: Luke Massey, Press & Communications Officer, [email protected], 07973 873 155.

Marine Conservation Society: Richard Harrington, Head of Communications, [email protected], 07793 118 384