UN publishes report urging the discontinuation of microbeads in cosmetics

By Andrew MCDOUGALL contact

- Last updated on GMT

UN publishes report urging the discontinuation of microbeads in cosmetics

Related tags: Personal care products, Environment

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) released a report this week on the occasion of World Oceans' Day recommending a precautionary approach toward microplastic management, with an eventual phase-out and ban of their use in personal care products and cosmetics.

The study, entitled ‘Plastic in Cosmetics: Are We Polluting the Environment Through our Personal Care’​, states that plastic ingredients that contribute to marine microplastic litter' is a compilation of currently available knowledge on the linkages between cosmetics and plastic pollution in the oceans.

Microplastics have been used in personal care products over the years, replacing natural options in a large number of formulations, though there have been moves in recent times to phase the out of products.

Noting that not all cosmetics contain plastics, the report states that a large number still do and as most of the world does not treat its wastewater or incinerate sewage sludge, most particles will therefore end up in the environment, which can be a cause for concern.

Of course, the presence of ‘micro size plastic’ in the water supply certainly isn’t solely down to personal care products, as there are other key contributors, such as synthetic fabric being broken down in washing machines.

However the UN says that cosmetics still contribute which is why we must take action.

“The globally accepted importance of addressing emissions of plastic to the ocean suggests we direct our attention toward cleaner production and including environmental considerations in product design decisions,”​ says the report.

“Given the associated potential risks of microplastics, a precautionary approach is recommended toward microplastic management, with the eventual phase-out and ban in personal care and cosmetics products.”

UNEP claims that redesigning products that are more environmentally friendly, less plastic intensive and use safer chemicals can contribute towards reducing potential health threats posed by microplastics in PCCPs.

The UN’s findings are not completely alien to us by now given that many US states and countries have moved to ban the use of microbeads in cosmetics.

Only last year, Illinois passed legislation banning all microplastics in personal care products by 2019, while California and New York are among other US states that are pursuing similar measures.

The European Commission has also highlighted marine microplastics pollution as a priority area of concern

The report makes several recommendations for producers and consumers, as well as for researchers and policymakers, calling for a voluntary phase-out of microplastics by the industry precipitated by consumers' decisions not to buy products containing microbeads.

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