Microbead ban does not go far enough, campaigners say

All products containing microbeads should be banned because they pollute the ocean Credit: PA

All products containing microbeads should be banned because they pollute the ocean, campaigners say.

The Government's proposal to prohibit the sale of only "rinse-off" products containing the tiny plastic pieces does not go far enough, they claim.

Microbeads, which are found in beauty items including exfoliating scrubs and some toothpastes, wash down the drain and end up being eaten by fish and crustaceans in the sea.

Environmental campaigners warned the proposals risked leaving a loophole for the use of microbeads in other products that a survey found were commonly washed off down the drain by consumers.

A poll of 2,141 adults for the microbeads coalition of environmental groups, revealed that 42% of those who use face make-up such as foundation and concealer wash it off in the sink, bath or shower.

Around a third of people using lip and eye products wash them off and 60% of adults who do not wear make-up but do use skincare products such as sun cream wash them off down the drain, the survey by YouGov found.

The ban should include all products that are washed down the drain or directly discharged into waterways or the marine environment, campaigners urged.

Any definition of "microbeads" should include all solid plastic ingredients smaller than 5mm that are used for any purpose, with no lower size limit in the definition and no allowance for so-called biodegradable plastics to be used as alternatives, they said.

Microbeads go down the drain and pollute the ocean Credit: PA

There must also be a clear and prompt timeline for phasing out the microbead ingredients, according to the coalition made up of the Environmental Investigation Agency, Fauna & Flora International, Greenpeace UK and the Marine Conservation Society.

A statement from the groups said: "'Many countries around the world, from India to Korea to New Zealand, are now looking at banning microplastics in products that can end up in the sea, and they're looking to the UK to provide a model of how best to do that.

"By implementing a robust and comprehensive ban of microplastics in all products which can reach drainage, this government can have a truly global impact.

'We've already seen the problematic loopholes in the US legislation, which limited the ban to "rinse-off" products that perform an "exfoliating" function and ended up allowing other types of products containing microplastics to keep pouring into our oceans.

'With trillions of microplastics already in the sea, this really is a global issue and the British Government must seize the opportunity to create a world-leading ban."