Call to action follows recent bans in US and Canada

The UK government should ban microplastics in cosmetics by the end of 2017, according to a cross-party group of MPs. The demand comes in the wake of recent bans in the US and Canada.

Less than 5mm in size, plastic microbeads are used in a range of personal care products, from shower gels to scrubs, as a simple way to exfoliate skin and remove dirt. But once flushed down the drain, these tiny particles are likely to have a massive impact on the environment.

In a 2015 report the United National Environment Programme (UNEP) stated that these plastics could take centuries to break down in marine ecosystems, with fish likely ingesting them. Both the US and Canada moved to ban microbeads following the UNEP report.

Between 80,000 and 219,000 tonnes of microplastics enter the seas from Europe each year, according to the new UK Environmental Audit Committee report. These microplastics include fragments from the break-up of larger plastics, fibres from clothing and cosmetic microbeads. The committee concludes cosmetic firms’ commitment to phase out microbeads by 2020 is too slow. A legislative ban should now be introduced, according to the cross-party group.

The UK government has previously said that is open to the prospect of a ban, but only if the EU fails to act.