Greenpeace is thrilled that a very important UK government committee has backed its call for a complete ban on microbeads. It’s not often that MP’s from both sides of the aisle agree, however the Environment Committee MP’s were unanimous in their agreement that microbeads should be banned because of the harm they cause to our oceans. This represents a massive victory for the 330,000 people who signed the Greenpeace petition calling for a ban on these pollution causing bits being added to household products.
Microbeads bad for the environment
It appears that everyone seems to agree with what is completely obvious. We should not be adding tiny bits of plastic to products that are able to pass through sewage filtration systems and out to rivers and ultimately the sea where they are eaten by wildlife. There are some interesting statistics. One shower can cause 100,000 plastic particles entering the ocean. Every year throughout Europe it is estimated that between 80,000 to 219,000 tonnes of microplastics enter the marine environment.
Voluntary commitments won’t work
The committee also rubbished the idea that a voluntary phase out by companies would work and instead a full legal ban is necessary. Greenpeace recently ranked the 30 biggest cosmetics companies by their commitment to eliminating microbeads and the results suggest whilst some companies are doing better than others, none are going as far as required. Companies use different definitions of microbeads and all have different time frames for phasing them out, whilst some are only phasing out microbeads from certain products. If there is a voluntary phase out in place, it is likely that plastic will continue entering the ocean.
The devil is in the detail
So whilst there is cause for celebration, the devil is in the detail. All of us need to continue working hard to get Theresa May to support the ban and make sure that companies cannot continue to attempt to limit the ban to specific products. Most people are aware that microbeads can be found in shower gels and face scrubs, but they are also contained in a wide range of products including deodorants, shaving foam, sunscreen, washing powder and household cleaners.
We need a complete ban
Where a plastic microbead originates from is completely irrelevant to the turtle or fish which commonly mistakes tiny pieces of plastic for food. This is why a total ban on microbeads being added to products is necessary if we are going to get rid of the problem or good.