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CTPA responds to the UK Government public consultation on plastic microbeads

20 December 2016

A public consultation by the UK Government on the use of plastic microbeads in cosmetic products and other consumer goods has been launched.  This is a follow-up to the Government’s announcement in September 2016 to ban the use of plastic microbeads in cosmetic products that are likely to reach the marine environment and could cause harm. 

The UK cosmetics industry has been acting voluntarily to remove microbeads from products since 2015 as part of a Europe-wide initiative. As a result, the vast majority of UK cosmetic manufacturers are already well on the way to removing plastic microbeads completely from products where the microbeads may reach the marine environment, as are companies across Europe. 

The UK cosmetics industry has already achieved a 70% reduction since a European industry recommendation to cease use was issued in October 2015.

CTPA welcomes the fact that this progress is highlighted in the consultation text published today.

Dr Chris Flower, Director-General of CTPA, a toxicologist and Chartered Biologist, said: “The UK cosmetics industry has been acting voluntarily to remove microbeads from products since 2015. We have achieved a 70% reduction so far and are well on our way to full removal, so we welcome that industry progress is highlighted in the Government’s consultation.”

As CTPA explained in September, a UK ban will now ensure that all products entering the market are in compliance. 

It has been acknowledged by many, including the UK House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, that the contribution from cosmetic products to the huge problem of microplastic litter in the marine environment is extremely small.  As a responsible industry the decision had already been made to move away from even this small contribution. 

Although the cosmetics industry is taking action, microplastics pollution persists and is contributed to by numerous sources.  It is important for the Government to address plastics pollution on a wider basis to understand the scale of the problem and work towards a sustainable solution.

Dr Chris Flower said: “If we are to stem the tide of microplastic marine litter, we must tackle the major sources and these are not cosmetic products.  We are therefore pleased to see that the Government’s public consultation will also seek information on the other sources of microplastics in the marine environment, much of which we know comes from the breakdown of larger plastic items.   Any measures taken by the Government must be evidence-based, proportionate and targeted at the major contributors to plastic marine litter.”

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