Microbeads to be dropped from cosmetics products

Posted Sep 12, 2016 by Tim Sandle
The British government has announced a ban on the use of microbeads in cosmetics and other personal care products. Microbeads are spheres of plastic added to help different products to 'clean.'
File photo: Major beauty product companies are beginning to adapt to the increasing demand for halal...
File photo: Major beauty product companies are beginning to adapt to the increasing demand for halal cosmetics such as L'Oreal, which has certified hundreds of its ingredients as adhering to Muslim rules
Prakash Singh, AFP/File
The purpose of adding microbeads to some products, like face scrubs and toothpastes, is to help the product clean or exfoliate. These take the form of tiny, often spherical pieces of plastic.
A longstanding concern with environmentalists is that billions of tint plastic beads end up in the wastewater and ultimately in the marine environment. These beads contribute to the plastisphere (the growing drift of plastic in the oceans) and ultimately harm marine life. Sea creatures harmed by the beads include fish and crustaceans.
The impending ban has been announced by Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom. The implementation of the ban will be through a consultative process, involving the cosmetics industry. Unilever has already agreed to remove microbeads from its personal care products.
Some cosmetics manufacturers are considering alternatives to microbeads such as nut shells or salt and sugar, which have some cleansing properties.
Commenting on the process, Mrs Leadsom, who stood for the leadership of the Conservative Party this year, said: “Most people would be dismayed to know the face scrub or toothpaste they use was causing irreversible damage to the environment, with billions of indigestible plastic pieces poisoning sea creatures.”
The move forms part of wider government initiatives to reduce dependency on plastic products. Last year a Liberal Democrat initiative to introduce a charge for plastic bags in supermarkets was put into effect. The idea here is to encourage people to bring their own bags to grocery stores and to re-use bags multiple times.
The next phase will be to find ways to remove microbeads from household and industrial cleaning products. Following this, consideration will be given for removing other types of plastics like microfibers.
Outlining the next steps, Andrea Leadsom also added that the Conservative government is “committed to its promise to be the first generation ever to leave the environment in a better state than it inherited, and together we can bring an end to these harmful plastics clogging up our oceans.”