UK lawmakers push for ban on plastic microbeads

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 24, 2016 6:46 AM

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain should ban the use of plastic microbeads in cosmetics and toiletries, a group of lawmakers has recommended, saying companies' voluntary efforts to phase them out were not enough.

Microbeads are tiny plastic particles used as exfoliants in toothpastes, face washes, scrubs and shower gels. After rinsing, the plastic beads pollute waterways and oceans, where they can be eaten by marine life and end up in the human food chain.

"A single shower can result in 100,000 plastic particles entering the ocean," said Mary Creagh, chair of the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, which delivered its recommendation on Wednesday to the government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The department will respond within a few months, the committee said.

Many large companies such as Procter & Gamble, Colgate, Unilever, L'Oreal and Beiersdorf have either stopped using microbeads or are in the process of phasing them out.

Yet the report says industry's commitment to phasing them out is inconsistent and that some companies will not complete the process until 2020.

It says cosmetic microbeads make up less than 4 percent of microplastics entering oceans, but they are an avoidable problem about which much is known. Other sources of microplastics include synthetic fibers from clothing and the breakdown of large plastic waste.

The UK government has been working toward a ban on microbeads by the European Union, but the country's decision to leave the bloc means its influence in the process will be reduced, the report said. It recommends that the British ban is aligned as closely as possible to international measures.

(Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Alison Williams)