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A Voice for Our Ocean

Statement: UK Microbeads Ban an Important Step, but Global Waste Management Solutions Still Needed

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The following statement was issued by Nicholas Mallos, director of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas Program, in reaction to the UK’s ban on plastic microbead production that went into effect this week:

“We applaud the UK for implementing its much-anticipated ban on plastic microbeads and are encouraged to see similar initiatives recently implemented in Canada and around the world. Microbeads, the tiny plastic particles found in everyday items such as exfoliants and face scrubs, often end up in waterways and the ocean, as they are too small to be captured by wastewater systems. Moreover, natural alternatives exist. While scientists continue to study the effects of plastic on ocean and human health, many believe that microplastics—including microbeads—may be especially dangerous to the ocean and its wildlife. The Marine Conservation Society UK have seen these impacts firsthand through their efforts in the International Coastal Cleanup, which have prevented more than 1 million items of debris from entering the ocean since 2012. As such, we hope that the ban will allow alternative, more ocean-friendly products to flourish in the market and encourage innovation among manufacturers.

“However, as UK viewers learned in the BBC’s enthralling Blue Planet II series, plastic microbeads are just a tiny fraction of the 8 million metric tons of plastic that enter our ocean annually, and more must be done to mitigate this growing threat. We urge the UK and other governments who are serious about mitigating ocean plastic to join in multilateral conversations focused on combatting marine debris of all forms and creating a true circular economy. A key piece of this solution is reducing single-use consumption and improving waste collection and recycling systems in regions of the world where the ocean plastic pandemic is currently largest.

“Ocean Conservancy has been driving this approach through our Trash Free Seas Alliance®, an initiative uniting industry, scientists and conservationists around systemic, scalable solutions to the ocean plastic problem, including working directly with several governments in southeast Asia, where plastic pollution has reached crippling levels. We welcome the participation of UK officials and businesses in these important initiatives.

“We also look forward to further discussions surrounding ocean plastic and the circular economy at this month’s upcoming World Economic Forum in Davos and the annual Greenbiz event next month in Phoenix, Arizona.”

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Nicholas Mallos is available for comment upon request.

Note to editors: Ocean Conservancy’s executive vice president, Emily Woglom, will be at Davos to address ocean plastic issues.