HomeIn the newsCTPA responds to misleading claims on plastic microbeads in cosmetic products

CTPA responds to misleading claims on plastic microbeads in cosmetic products

You may have seen media reports relating to the forthcoming UK ban on plastic microbeads in cosmetic products. CTPA fully supports the removal of plastic microbeads from cosmetic products and any suggestion otherwise is simply misleading. CTPA is disappointed in such inaccurate reporting. The European cosmetics industry began voluntarily removing plastic microbeads well in advance of any proposed bans. CTPA supports a legislative ban where ALL companies will be covered by it - not just the responsible companies who have already taken action.

We want to make sure that any initiatives or legislation to protect our waters will be beneficial for the marine environment and have a significant impact. There is no benefit to the environment in banning ingredients or products that do not pollute it. There is no scientific evidence of contribution to marine litter or harm to marine life other than from solid plastic microbeads - those found in some rinse-off cleansing and exfoliating products. They are not present in make-up or mascara.

Regulation must be based on sound science and must ban those ingredients where there is evidence of harm to the marine environment. Other ingredients in cosmetic products that are being mistakenly called into question are not plastic, many of them are not even solid, there is no evidence that they reach the marine environment, and they have not been shown to contribute to marine litter and cause any risk of harm there.

The problem of plastic pollution in our oceans is serious, so while doubtless well-meaning in their intentions, campaigning groups could have a far greater impact on it if they were to focus on the substantive sources of plastic pollution - those that contribute 99.7%(1) of plastic pollution to the marine environment.

Dr Chris Flower, Former Director-General of the CTPA and a Chartered Biologist and a toxicologist says:
"The use of plastic microbeads in cosmetics raises strong emotions and we share in those concerns over our environment but we must take account of the facts as they show that industry voluntary action has been very effective. Plastic pollution remains a significant issue but we need to look to the major sources of plastic if we are to make progress."

Facts and figures:

  • Since the EU cosmetics industry voluntary recommendation was announced in October 2015, long before any legislative ban was proposed, a CTPA UK survey showed that by the summer of 2016 the usage of plastic microbeads had fallen by 70%. Use continues to decrease and the UK industry's removal of plastic microbeads will be complete by 2018.

  • In addition to this industry action, scientific research shows that over 99% of plastic microbeads are captured by waste water treatment plant processes(2, 3, 4) before they can reach the ocean

Read more:

What are plastic microbeads?


1 Eunomia "Plastics in the Marine Environment" June 2016
The Eunomia infographic highlights the different contributors of primary microplastics to the marine environment.

2. Murphy, F., Ewins, C., Carbonnier, F. & Quinn, B. (2016)
Wastewater Treatment Works (WwTW) as a Source of Microplastics in the Aquatic Environment.
Environ. Sci. Technol. 50 5800-5808

3. Carr, S.A., Liu, J. & Tesoro, A.G. (2016)
Transport and Fate of Microplastic Particles in Wastewater Treatment Plants.
Water Res. 91 174-182

4. Gouin, T., Avalos, J., Brunning, I. Brzuska, K., De Graaf, J., Koning, T., Mayberg, M., Rettinger, K., Schlatter, H., Thomas, J., Van Welie, R. & Wolf, T. (2015)
Use of Micro-Plastic Beads in Cosmetic Products in Europe and their Estimated Emissions to the North Sea Environment.
Int. J. Appl. Sci. 141 40-46

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