Britain’s major retailers vow to end microbead use

Almost all of Britain's major retailers have pledged to phase out harmful microbeads from their own-brand cosmetic and beauty products, marking a major victory for environmentalists.


The landmark commitments, were announced today (8 June) on World Ocean Day, by conservation charity Fauna & Flora International.

Companies involved in the announcement include: Asda, Boots, the Co-operative, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Superdrug, Tesco and Waitrose (scroll down for full list).

The compliance date for microbead-free products varied between companies, but most had targeted 2017 or sooner.

Microbeads are used as exfoliants in a range of beauty and cosmetic products, including facial scrubs and toothpastes.

Their small size means that they cannot be filtered out during wastewater treatment, so they often filter down to rivers, lakes and seas, where they are eaten by marine species which cannot differentiate between microbeads and food.

The beads – which are known to absorb toxins – can accumulate inside fish and other marine life, becoming more concentrated and toxic as they are passed up the food chain.

A 2010 study of 670 fish found that 35% had microplastics in their stomachs.

Vote with your wallet

Marine plastics projects manager at Fauna & Flora International, Tanya Cox said that consumer sentiment had helped pressure retailer’s into phasing out microbeads

She added: ““Three years ago, hardly anyone in the UK knew about plastic microbeads in cosmetics or the impact they have on marine wildlife, but today the situation is very different.

“Thanks to dedicated campaigning by organisations like Fauna & Flora International and the Marine Conservation Society, and efforts by the press to raise public awareness, this issue is now very much in the public consciousness with thousands of people actively putting pressure on their favourite brands to phase out microbeads.”

She added that legislation would still be needed from the government to ensure that companies stuck to their commitments.

Brad Allen

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