There's much work still to be done. But this is an important step for our oceans.
It took a while, but the UK's ban on adding microbeads to "rinse off" personal care products has finally come into effect for manufacturers. That means toothpastes, shampoos, soaps and other items will no longer be able to contain tiny little bits of plastic that never should have been there in the first place. And in six months' time, there will be a ban on selling these products too. According to Business Green, plans are also underfoot for specially-trained border patrol agents to inspect imports for products that may flout the ban.
Now, it's important to note that "leave on" products like make-up and sunscreen will not be affected by this ban (ahem, I'm looking at you, glitter), but if I were a cosmetics company, I would take this as a warning shot to start thinking hard about alternative formulations before the ban is extended.
Meanwhile, Canada also enacted its microbead ban on January 1st and, if the write up over at Business Green is correct, it contains no such exemptions for sunscreen or make-up, although certain natural health products (huh?!) and prescription drugs have an exemption which will expire in July of this year. Not bad.
As a reminder, the US and New Zealand have also taken steps to ban microbeads, as has Ireland. And, according to Richmond News, Sweden, Finland, France, Iceland, Luxemburg and Norway also have plans for banning or restricting these ingredients in some shape or form.
With so many countries stepping up to tackle this problem, I think we can expect each individual ban to have an impact well beyond a country's borders. After all, in our global marketplace, it makes little sense for companies to have specific formulations for every single country—especially if that country might be next on the list to start taking microplastic pollution seriously.