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Microbeads to be banned from bathing products, Michael Gove announces

Michael Gove has announced that the UK will ban plastic microbeads from bathing products in his first major speech as Environment Secretary.

He said laws to implement the bar would be introduced later this year as he said the exfoliating beads had a "devastating effect on marine life".

The beads are often included as exfoliators in body products including toothpaste, shower gels and scrub.

They are usually washed off during use and are now building up in waterways, potentially damaging wildlife and entering the food chain.

Mr Gove said afterwards that there was "simply no justification" for the continued use of the beads.

"It seems to be that microbeads and other plastics are simply causing a level of pollution in our seas river and oceans that we need to stop."

A body wash containing microbeads. Credit: PA

Mr Gove's announcement came during a speech in which he pledged to offer a "green Brexit".

Leaving the bloc offers a "historic opportunity" to protect the environment into the future, he told a speech to WWF's Living Planet Centre in Woking.

Leaving the EU gives us a once in a lifetime opportunity to reform how we manage agriculture and fisheries, how we care for our land, our rivers and our seas, how we recast our ambition for our country's environment, and the planet.

In short, it means delivering a green Brexit.

– Michael Gove

The minister cast himself as a protector of the environment who was motivated both by a love of nature and a "hard calculation" of its economic benefits.

He said that the UK would not weaken its environmental or animal welfare standards in order to ease the way for a trading deal with the US.

Mr Gove also said that farming subsidies after the EU in the future could be tied to environmental work such as including planting trees and protecting treasured landscapes.

The proposals will be controversial with many farmer facing tough price competition and tight margins.

Charities called for firm details on policies. Credit: PA

Environmental groups have welcomed the commitment to ban microbeads, in an announcement that was widely expected.

Campaigners have said the ban will not go far enough, as it is only expected to cover 'rinse-off' products.

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

Greenpeace UK oceans campaigner Louisa Casson said the proposed ban would be the strongest in the world to date.

“This is great news for our environment and a positive sign of Britain’s global leadership on ocean plastics.

“It’s crucial that ministers have left the door open to broadening the ban in future.

"To achieve a fully comprehensive ban covering all products that go down the drain, we need companies to be much more transparent about whether their products contain harmful microbeads."