UK supermarket takes immediate action to ban microbead plastics

The Guardian reports, 24th November 2016: Tesco will have phased out microbeads from all its own brand cosmetics and household cleaning products within a month, it was announced on 24th November.

While UK ministers recently said personal care products containing these tiny pieces of plastic will be banned from sale by the end of 2017, it is not clear yet whether the ban will extend to other types of products that rely on their abrasive properties.

But Tesco said that it was listening to customers’ concerns and in the spring it had instructed suppliers to either cut microbeads from products such as toothpaste entirely, or to use natural alternatives such as ground coconut shell in face scrubs.

The supermarket will also make “do not flush” labels much bigger on the front of its own brand wet wipes, which campaigners and water companies say are clogging up sewers and causing pollution. And the company’s own brand “flushable” wipes will soon be manufactured to break down more easily.

Tesco admitted it had been “behind the game” on issues affecting the oceans and marine life before.

Microbeads are pieces of plastic less than 0.5mm in diameter and have been commonly used in health and beauty products to provide an exfoliating effect. But they have been blamed for harming marine life’s ability to reproduce, and experts say more research is needed on their potential human health impacts.

Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP and a member of the environment audit committee, said: “We’ve won the argument for a ban on microbeads in cosmetics and personal products. We need to take it a step further and see if companies can disclose what is in their products rather than relying on the likes of Greenpeace to do that analysis.”

Greenpeace, whose ship, the Esperanza, is docked in London for the start of a major oceans campaign by the group, said that microbeads needed to be stopped at source because cleaning it up in the oceans was almost impossible.

“You can’t clean this stuff up effectively, partly because it’s too big a problem and partly because so little ends up at the surface”, said David Santillo, a scientist at Greenpeace and the University of Exeter.

Source: The Guardian, 24th November 2016. For the full details, see www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/nov/24/tesco-to-phase-out-microbeads-from-its-products


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