Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey has announced that cosmetic and personal care product manufacturers will no longer be able to add tiny pieces of plastic known as ‘microbeads’ to rinse-off products such as face scrubs, toothpastes and shower gels.

The government says that these beads can cause serious harm to marine life and the UK ban will help to stop billions of microbeads ending up in the ocean every year.

Coffey says: “The world’s seas and 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.

“Microbeads are entirely unnecessary when there are so many natural alternatives available, and I am delighted that from today cosmetics manufacturers will no longer be able to add this harmful plastic to their rinse-off products.

“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.”


The move comes ahead of the government’s upcoming 25 Year Environment Plan. A ban on the sale of products containing microbeads will follow later in the year.

Dr Sue Kinsey, senior pollution officer at the Marine Conservation Society, adds: “We are delighted that such a robust microbead ban has come into force. This is the strongest and most comprehensive ban to be enacted in the world and will help to stem the flow of micro plastics into our oceans.

“We believe that this signals a real commitment on the part of this government to clean up our seas and beaches and hope this is a first step on this road before we see further actions to combat plastic waste.”