Microbeads, Dangerous to Marine Ecosystems, Banned in United Kingdom

The ban follows similar legislation in the United States from 2017.

Microbeads, the tiny pieces of plastic personal care manufacturers add to shower gels, toothpastes and other items, have officially been banned in the United Kingdom. The ban went into effect on Tuesday, preventing manufacturers of cosmetics and personal care items from adding the environmentally damaging bits of plastic.

According to The New York Times, “Microbeads that wash down drains cannot be filtered out by many wastewater treatment plants, meaning that tiny plastics slip easily into waterways. Fish and other marine animals often eat them, introducing potentially toxic substances into the food chain.”

They also represent a portion of the growing plastic pollution problem in our waterways. A 2016 report by the Environmental Audit Committee of the House of Commons in Britain found that single shower can flush as many as 100,000 microbeads in waterways.

“The world’s seas and oceans are some of our most valuable natural assets and I am determined we act now to tackle the plastic that devastates our precious marine life,” the U.K.’s Environment Minister Therese Coffey said in a statement.

She continued, “Microbeads are entirely unnecessary when there are so many natural alternatives available, and I am delighted that from today cosmetics manufacturers will no longer be able to add this harmful plastic to their rinse-off products.”

The United States passed similar legislation in 2015, which permitted manufacturers from using microbeads in rinse-off products starting in July 2017. And many manufacturers of these sorts of products have already phased out the use of the detrimental orbs.

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