Neville Prior

UK Government Reveals Draft Law on Microbeads Ban

Neville Prior  15 September 2017 05:54:09 PM
Image:UK Government Reveals Draft Law on Microbeads Ban
The UK government has published a draft of a law that will ban the manufacture of rinse-off cosmetics containing microbeads by the end of the year. The draft follows a public consultation on the government's proposed ban, which closed on 28 February. Some respondents had called for its scope to be broadened and cover all products that result in microbeads being washed down the drain. This would include leave-on makeup and sunscreen. Others called for inclusion of some polymers and cleaning products. The draft law has kept to the scope originally proposed. But the UK environment ministry, Defra, has now also committed to working with the Hazardous Substances Advisory Committee (HSAC) to assess the case for addressing further categories of products.

NGOs have already started discussing the scope and timeline for this work with Defra and the HSAC, according to the Microbeads Coalition, a campaign umbrella group made up of the Environmental Investigation Agency, Greenpeace, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the Marine Conservation Society. The coalition is "particularly pleased that the ban will not include a limit on the lower size, shape or function of the plastic ingredients covered by the legislation or an exemption for so-called "biodegradable" plastics," FFI said. And it welcomes the inclusion in the draft of definitions for 'microbead', 'plastic' and 'rinse-off'. This makes it potentially stricter than the original proposal, FFI said.

Meanwhile, UK cosmetics trade association, CTPA, says it is scrutinising the draft legislation "to ensure it covers those solid plastic microbeads which have been identified as a possible, though minor, contributor to marine litter". The cosmetics industry has already acted voluntarily to remove those microbeads from rinse-off cosmetics, it said. Use of microbeads by its member companies had fallen by 80% by the middle of 2016 and will be zero by the end of 2018, even without the ban, it said.

CTPA adds that only rinse-off cleansing and exfoliating cosmetic products have been associated with marine litter because only those products had contained solid plastic microbeads. "It is important that the ban does not inadvertently cover ingredients that are not solid plastic microbeads and for which there is no sound scientific evidence to support legislative action," said CTPA director general, Chris Flower.

Referencing a report by environmental consultants Eunomia that identified the sources of primary and secondary plastic, Dr Flower said, the CTPA looks forward to seeing what action the government will take over "the major sources of marine litter, since more than 99% of the problem still remains to be addressed."

Defra is accepting comments on the draft legislation until 15 October.
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