In his first major speech, Michael Gove, the UK Environment Secretary, announced that microbeads will be fully banned in the country in order to prevent the minuscule pieces of plastic from entering the oceans. According to The Telegraph, the government has been consulting on whether to introduce a new legislation against the beads and, in the end, decided for the ban. The legislation prohibiting the manufacture and sale of microbeads will be introduced this year.

Although tiny, microbeads are a serious threat to the environment. Found in personal care products like exfoliating face washes and toothpaste, the beads are carried through drain pipes to water treatment facilities where, because of how small they are – about half of a millimeter in diameter – they pass through filters and travel to local waterways and, in the end, to the ocean. There, they pollute the waters and can be swallowed far more easily than bigger plastic trash by marine animals.

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In his speech, Gove also pledged to take action to reduce plastic waste in the oceans and expressed his ambition for the UK to be the leader in worldwide environmental protection. In his speech, he recalled the past undertakings to cut the amount of plastic waste produced in the country, like the carrier bag charge from 2015 which resulted in 9 billion fewer bags being distributed, which was a fall of 83 percent. “Last year the government launched a consultation on banning microbeads in personal care products, which have such a devastating effect on marine life,” he said about the issue at hand. “We are responding to that consultation today and we will introduce legislation to implement that ban later this year.”

But it was not only promises about the microplastics that Gove talked about in his speech. He emphasized that there is much more that can be done to protect our oceans and said the government would explore new ways of reducing the amount of plastic entering the waters, as well as work to “improve incentives for reducing waste and litter, and review the penalties available to deal with polluters – all part of a renewed strategy on waste and resources that looks ahead to opportunities outside the EU.”

Moreover, the government is bringing forward a bill to help deal with the issue of littering from vehicles and will soon publish its response regarding increasing the fixed penalty fine for littering. Gove also hinted that introduced will be incentives to encourage people to recycle more and limit their use of plastic bottles.

The UK government’s ban on microbeads is a fantastically big step forward when it comes to tackling the problem of plastic waste, being, as Greenpeace UK ocean campaigner Louisa Casson underlines, “the strongest ban on microbeads in the world to date”. It is a great sign of UK’s stance on the issue and, hopefully, just the first of many green decisions on the country’s part.

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If you’re concerned about the amount of plastics you’re contributing to the environment, you can start making steps to cut it out of your life today! To learn more about how you can reduce your personal plastic use, check out One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic campaign! 

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