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Microplastic Microbeads

Microbeads, added as exfoliators to 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.

Scottish Ministers have committed to introducing secondary legislation in Scotland, with the rest of the UK, to ban the manufacture and sale of rinse-off personal care products containing plastic microbeads which may cause harm to the marine environment. The ban would apply to solid microplastic ingredients, less than 5 mm in size in every dimension, 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 will provide preventative action on harmful substances entering the marine environment and will deliver for the Scottish Government’s vision for clean, healthy safe, productive and diverse seas; managed to meet the long-term needs of nature and people.   

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 calling for evidence on other sources of microplastics entering the marine environment.

The Summary of Responses was published on 21 July 2017 and can be downloaded below.

As part of the process of introducing new legislation, a public notice of the draft Environmental Protection (Microbeads) (Scotland) Regulations 2018 was placed in the Edinburgh and London Gazette on the 22nd December. The notice and the draft regulation are available to download below.

Should you wish to make any representation regarding the draft regulation then please write to the Marine Litter Team, Marine Planning & Strategy, Marine Scotland, Area 1A South, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh EH6 6QQ or by email to MSMicrobeads@gov.scot. Representations can be made by any person and must be received by 11 January 2018.

The anticipated date for the introduction of the proposed legislation is 9 July 2018, working with the UK and the other Devolved Administrations to introduce a ban simultaneously.

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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