The public consultation was launched on 20 December by Defra, the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland , and will continue until 28 February.
“The purpose of this consultation is to seek views on our proposals to ban the manufacture and sale of cosmetics and personal care products containing microbeads which may harm the marine environment,” Defra said of the launch.
“The consultation also seeks to gather evidence on the extent of the environmental impacts of further sources of potential marine plastic pollution, to inform future UK actions to protect the marine environment.”
Industry bodies have welcomed the opportunity to express their responses, particularly in light of the fact cosmetics products contribute a much smaller proportion of microplastic waste than other industries. The government announced its intention to ban microbeads in cosmetics in September last year.
The CTPA is one body that has welcomed the consultation, while asserting that the industry has already made big strides to voluntarily reduce microbead use, a fact noted by the consultation announcement.
“The UK cosmetics industry has been acting voluntarily to remove microbeads from products since 2015. We have achieved a 70% reduction so far and are well on our way to full removal, so we welcome that industry progress is highlighted in the Government’s consultation," Dr Chris Flower, Director-General of CTPA, a toxicologist and Chartered Biologist, stated.
Flowers also sought to draw attention to the fact cosmetics products are not a primary source of microplastic waste.
“If we are to stem the tide of microplastic marine litter, we must tackle the major sources and these are not cosmetic products,” he said.
“We are therefore pleased to see that the Government’s public consultation will also seek information on the other sources of microplastics in the marine environment, much of which we know comes from the breakdown of larger plastic items.”
Indeed, on the announcement of the ban back in September, environmental group Greenpeace has released a statement calling for microplastics to be banned across the board, not just those used for personal care.
"There should be no lower size limit included in the definition. The legislation should cover all products that are commonly washed down the drain,” the environmental group asserted in a statement.