Published On: Wed, Jun 15th, 2016

Ban on plastic microbeads from cosmetics ‘good place to start’

The Government backs banning polluting microbeads from cosmetics, Environment Minister George Eustice has told MPs.

Tonnes of microbeads, tiny pieces of plastic which are put in products such as face scrubs, are washed into the environment in the UK each year where they can be eaten or swallowed by marine life such as fish and mussels.

plastic products

Ban on plastic microbeads from cosmetics ‘good place to start’

Ministers previously supported a voluntary scheme to phase out the plastics from cosmetics, but after a ban was brought in by the US, a similar move is now favoured here, Mr Eustice told the parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee

“I think what has happened in the US has changed the dynamics of this, and we do think it’s right now for us to say, well let’s progress and proceed with a ban instead,” he said.

Mr Eustice, who supports Brexit but was appearing in front of the MPs in his Government role, said that while the UK was in the single market, it should push for a European Union-wide ban on microbeads in the manufacture and sale of cosmetics.

The UK could introduce its own national ban on using microbeads in products manufactured in Britain, he said, but as the EU controls trade issues, the UK could not unilaterally bring in a ban on the sale of cosmetics with the plastic particles.

“Our view is it would be better to try and progress this at a European level and get other countries to do the same,” he said.

Measures to ban microbeads could be included in the EU “circular economy” package which is expected to come in in 2017 and there was a strong consensus on action among countries, he said.

Quizzed on extending the ban to microbeads in other domestic products such as laundry or dishwasher detergents, or even other microplastic pollutants such as synthetic fibres from textiles, Mr Eustice said cosmetics were a good place to start.

“At the moment the focus is very much microbeads in cosmetics because that’s an easy place to start, it’s very easy to target, very easy for them to find alternatives.”

He added: “The immediate discussion around introducing a ban is very much focusing on cosmetics at this stage, but obviously we don’t rule out broadening that once we’ve assessed the scale of the problem in other areas.”

Mr Eustice also told MPs that the broader and more complex EU legislation was made, the longer it took to get a decision.