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U.K. Seeks to Ban Plastic Microbeads in Cosmetics Next Year

  • Tiny plastic beads used in shower gels can harm marine life
  • Environment department wants ban to start in October 2017

The U.K. will become the latest country to outlaw plastic microbeads used in face wash and toothpaste next year over concerns they harm marine life and enter the food chain.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs published a consultation Tuesday proposing to ban the beads in cosmetics and personal-care products by October 2017. The move builds on voluntary commitments made by companies including Proctor & Gamble Co. and Johnson & Johnson.

One shower alone can send as many as 100,000 beads down the drain and they end up in the sea as they are too small to be filtered out in sewage treatment, according to Defra. “Adding tiny pieces of plastic to products like face washes and body scrubs is incredibly damaging to our sea life -– they can swallow them, but cannot digest them,” Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom said in a statement. 

Several U.S. states have passed bans and last month Canada said it was planning to outlaw commercial products containing microbeads in 2018.

“The U.K. has always been a leader in environmental protection and we take our responsibility to marine life -– not only in our own seas, but around the world –- very seriously,” said Leadsom.

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