Brighton researcher calls for Microbead ban

Microbeads in cosmeticsA reseacher at Brighton University’s Aquatic Research Centre is supporting calls by MPs to ban plastic microbeads in cosmetics.

PhD student Matt Turley has said:
"Microplastics do not biodegrade, and so they accumulate in the marine environment and are extremely costly and difficult, if not impossible, to clean up.

A ban on the use of microplastics in personal care products in the UK is a step in the right direction to reducing further inputs of plastic to the marine environment and to begin to address the wider problems of marine plastic pollution".


What are microbeads?

Microbeads (also known as microspheres or microplastics) are manufactured solid plastic particles of less than five millimeters in their largest dimension. They are most frequently made of polyethylene but can be of other petrochemical plastics such as polypropylene and polystyrene.

Essentially, they are tiny balls of plastic found in facial washes, shower gels, cosmetic and toothpaste and are thought to be very harmful to the environment. They are used in products for their abrasive properties such as removing plaque from teeth or dead skin from the body. They are small enough to bypass water filtration plants and end up in lakes, rivers and the sea.

The Environmental Audit Committee have claimed that they are even turning up in Arctic sea-ice and are also sinking to the ocean floor.

Some MPs are demanding a worldwide ban on the tiny particles.

Although some companies that use them in the manufacturing process have agreed on a voluntary phase out by 2020, it could be a case of too little too late.

Mary Creagh MP, head of the Environmental Audit Committee, said:
"A single shower can result in 100,000 plastic particles entering the ocean. Cosmetic companies voluntary approach to phasing out plastic microbeads simply won’t wash. We need a full legal ban".

Matt is also quoted as saying:
"Scientists think microbeads are mistaken for food by marine animals after observing lower reproduction, feeding and growth rates in shellfish and worms. However, other companies have not signed up to the agreement, and many experts say the issue requires a more rapid response".

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