England: the ban of plastic microbeads in cosmetics to come
On 31 July 2017, the United Kingdom notified the WTO a draft regulation aimed to ban microbeads as an ingredient in rinse-off personal care products in England. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will take the same action but in their own legislative processes. The provision would enter into force from 1 January 2018.
Cosmetics and Personal Care products
The Environmental Protection (Microbeads) (England) Regulations 2017
Description of content
The draft regulations prohibit the use of microbeads as an ingredient in the manufacture of rinse-off personal care products and the sale of any such products containing microbeads.
In the draft regulations:
• "microbead" means any water-insoluble solid plastic particle of less than or equal to 5mm in any dimension; and
• "rinse-off personal care product" means any substance, or mixture of substances, manufactured for the purpose of being applied to any relevant human body part in the course of any personal care treatment, by an application which entails at its completion the prompt and specific removal of the product (or any residue of the product) by washing or rinsing with water, rather than leaving it to wear off or wash off, or be absorbed or shed, in the course of time;
• and for this purpose -
(a) a "personal care treatment" means any process of cleaning, protecting or perfuming a relevant human body part, maintaining or restoring its condition or changing its appearance; and
(b) a "relevant human body part" is -
(i) any external part of the human body (any part of the epidermis, hair system, nails or lips);
(ii) the teeth; or
(iii) mucous membranes of the oral cavity.
Breach of a prohibition is an offence.
Enforcement officers have powers of entry to carry out the necessary investigations in order to determine whether an offence has been committed.
A civil sanctions regime is introduced to enable the regulator to exercise a range of civil sanctions. These are variable monetary penalties, compliance notices, stop notices and enforcement undertakings.
The draft regulations apply to England only. The Devolved Administrations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have also committed to introducing a ban on microbeads but will submit separate notifications according to their own legislative processes and timescales.
We are proposing to introduce legislation to ban the manufacture and sale of "rinse-off" cosmetics and personal care products containing microbeads on the grounds that they cause harm to living species in the marine environment.
Up to 680 tonnes of plastic microbeads are used in cosmetic products sold in the UK every year resulting in billions of tiny beads entering our seas annually. These microbeads do not biodegrade and accumulate in the marine environment because, once released in to the environment it is impossible to recover them. Although the precise scale of the impacts from microbeads is unknown, there is evidence that microbeads can be ingested by marine animals which reduces their capacity to digest food and reproduce.
Some businesses have already taken voluntary actions but others still continue to use microbeads. Engagement with the UK cosmetics industry indicates that more than 72% of major companies will have ceased to sell cosmetic products containing microbeads by 2017. In the cosmetics industry, there are suitable, economically feasible alternatives. Microbeads in cosmetics are therefore an avoidable source of marine pollution that should be minimised in keeping with scientific advice.
A ban of this kind would help to improve the state of the marine environment and address public concerns relating to marine environment impacts arising from such cosmetics products.
Proposed date of adoption
To be determined
Proposed date of entry into force
The prohibition on the manufacture of relevant products will come into force on 1 January 2018 and the prohibition on the sale of relevant products will come into force on 30 June 2018.
Final date for comments
90 days from notification
For further information
• See the full text of The Environmental Protection (Microbeads) (England) Regulations 2017 (15 pages, in English)