Cosmetics industry representatives have urged the European Commission (EC) to limit an English ban on plastic microbeads.
In June, the UK government announced its plan to ban the use of microplastics in cosmetic products, following a consultation about its use in ‘rinse off’ personal care products such as toothpaste, exfoliators and shower gels and its possible environmental impacts.
Microplastics are so small they escape the filters in sewage plants and are flushed into the rivers and seas where they are consumed by fish and damage marine ecosystems, according to Greenpeace UK.
Since the announcement the 'microbeads coalition'—the Environmental Investigation Agency, Fauna and Flora International, Greenpeace UK and the Marine Conservation Society—successfully lobbied for an extension of the ban to include 'leave-on' products such as make-up and suntan lotion, which they say also contain microplastic particles.
Manufacturing with microbeads will be banned from the 1 January 2018 and the sale of products containing microbeads is set to be banned from 30 June 2018, according to EC documents.
In response, the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA) submitted a formal objection to the EC stating that the proposed ban goes too far.
In the submission the industry body said there was no justification for the government to extend the ban to other beauty products.
“There is no scientific evidence to support the need for any ban to go beyond the scope of those article the industry has already volunteered to remove from rinse-off cosmetic products, namely solid plastic microbeads used for cleansing or exfoliating,” it said.
“CTPA is therefore seeking to have the scope of the UK ban brought into line with the scientific evidence and with bans enacted elsewhere in the EU and globally.”
In a joint statement the microbeads coalition said all micropastics used in products were harmful to marine wildlife.
“Solid microplastic ingredients should never be used in products that are directly washed down the drain into our waterways. These ingredients include not only exfoliating microbeads, which have been well publicised, but also a range of other microplastic ingredients used for a variety of purposes that pose just as much of a threat to the marine environment,” it said.
“The ban announced by the UK government is world-leading in its ambition to successfully put a stop to this source of marine pollution. A weakening of the ban would prevent effective, robust legislation and would allow damaging microplastics to continue flowing into our seas.”
During a House of Commons debate on the proposed ban last week, MP Rebecca Pow said the CTPA was keen to limit the ban to rinse-off products because the affected companies needed “workable timescales”.
“If improving the environment is the key priority, I suggest those [leave-on] products should be part of the plan but companies should be given enough time to reformulate their products,” she said.
Emma Meredith, CTPA science director, added that any product re-development could take up to four years if the raw materials became unavailable.
☛ Want to stay up to date with the news? Sign up to our daily bulletin.