Hopefully you won't have too many beauty products on your bathroom shelf that contain microbeads, but the small manmade exfoliants are still widely manufactured, leading the government to crack down on their use. The nation-wide ban on manufacturing said products begins today, following several years of calls from anti-pollution environmentalists to end everything from face wash and scrubs to toothpaste being made with the damaging substances. The ban on sales will follow in July.
Back in September 2016, the UK government announced its first steps towards tackling the problem, following similar bans in the USA and Canada. Then, in his first speech as Environment Secretary, Michael Gove confirmed the ban, reports the Independent. Today's clampdown is only relevant to wash-off products, as there has been a direct correlation between the products that we rinse off and what is found in the world's oceans.
“The world’s oceans are some of our most valuable natural assets and I am determined we act now to tackle the plastic that devastates our precious marine life,” said current environment minister Thérèse Coffey. “Now we have reached this important milestone, we will explore how we can build on our world-leading ban and tackle other forms of plastic waste.”
We've been aware of the negative environmental impact of these tiny manmade exfoliants since 2012, with 300 billion pieces ending up in the Arctic Ocean alone and being consumed by sea-life, then making their way back to us via the food chain. Last year, a major global study published in the journal Science Advances found that 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced since 1950 – human impact on the planet cannot be denied, and facing up to our global footprint and reducing our use of plastic is one of the only ways towards a safer future. This kind of governmental crackdown is a proven success, with Gove stating that 9 billion fewer carrier bags have been distributed since the introduction of the 5p charge back in October 2015.
We're inherently lazy when it comes to changing our habits, particularly when large industries don't make it easy to do so. But when there are so many alternatives – sugar, oats and salt are popular ingredients for eco-conscious beauty brands – this is undoubtedly fantastic news and a big step forwards for the industry. Hopefully, this consideration for our planet's future will encourage people to use environmentally friendly makeup and skincare brands, cut down on product use, and recycle empty containers. No beauty is worth the cost of the earth.