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marine environment

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Microplastic Microbeads

Microbeads, added as exfoliators in face scrubs, toothpastes and shower gels, can cause serious harm to marine life, with one shower alone sending up to 100,000 beads down our drains. Up to 680 tonnes of plastic microbeads are used in cosmetic products sold in the UK every year, resulting in billions of tiny beads entering our seas annually. These microbeads do not biodegrade and accumulate in the marine environment.

A joint-UK consultation was completed in February 2017 to investigate a ban on the use of plastic microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products in the UK, and called for evidence on other sources of microplastics entering the marine environment. The Summary of Responses was published on 21 July 2017 and can be viewed at the bottom of this page. A public notice of the draft Environmental Protection (Microbeads) (Scotland) Regulations 2018 was subsequently placed in the Edinburgh and London Gazette on the 22nd December. Representations were invited in writing, to be received by 11 January 2018. No representations were received by email or post.  Notifications were also made to the World Trade Organisation under their Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement and to the European Commission under the Technical Standards Directive.  The Environmental Protection (Microbeads) (Scotland) Regulations 2018 was subsequently introduced on 19 June 2018 in unison with the ban on sales from the UK Government.

This legislation bans the manufacture and sale of rinse-off personal care products containing plastic microbeads which may cause harm to the marine environment. The ban applies to solid microplastic ingredients, less than 5 mm in size, which are used as an ingredient in rinse-off cosmetics and personal care products including, but not limited to, exfoliating scrubs, shower gels and toothpastes. 

This ban provides preventative action on harmful substances entering the marine environment and helps deliver the Scottish Government’s vision for clean, healthy, safe, productive and diverse seas; managed to meet the long-term needs of nature and people.  


Summary of Responses Document for the Consultation on the Proposal to Ban the Use of Plastic Microbeads in Cosmetics and Personal Care Products

Downloadable documents:

Title:Microplastic Microbeads
Description:Reducing the levels of Microplastic microbeads in our waters.
File:Microbeads UK Consultation Summary of Responses Document [PDF, 391.0 kb: 26 Jul 2017]
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File:Public Notice of Draft Microbead Regulations [PDF, 84.9 kb: 21 Dec 2017]
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File:Draft Microbead Regulations [PDF, 116.2 kb: 21 Dec 2017]
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