What are microbeads?

Every year 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean, this can range from huge pieces of plastic disposed of irresponsibly, fishing nets, drink bottles and microplastics so small only a microscope could see.

Microbeads contribute to ocean waste that end up in the stomachs of marine wildlife and potentially on our plate. But what are microbeads? They are small pieces of plastic in everyday cosmetic items such as body scrub, face wash and toothpaste. They are also in cleaning products not just cosmetics. You may be unknowingly be using items that contain microbeads as it is not always easy to distinguish what items contain them. Polyethylene is what you need to look for on the ingredients to avoid buying products with microbeads.


Which countries have banned microbeads?

Positive change has come thanks to the voices of those protecting our ocean and environment. Greenpeace celebrated a victory this year when the UK passed a law to ban the sale of microbeads effective of 30 June 2018. You can read more from Greenpeace below by clicking through the image.


The US passed a law in December 2015 when President Obama signed the Microbead Free-Waters Act. Rinse-off cosmetic products were banned from production as of July 2017 and banned from sale as of July 2018. Nonprescription drugs containing microbeads will also be banned from July 2019… As long as President Trump does not reverse another law that protects our global environment. It is worth noting national and state legislation can vary.

Canada committed to the banning the production and import of toiletries containing microbeads from the 1st of January, 2018. The manufacture of natural health products or nonprescription drugs containing plastic microbeads were banned as of the 1st of July 2018. From the 1st of July 2018 the sale of toiletries containing microbeads were banned and the sale of natural health products or nonprescription drugs containing plastic microbeads will be banned of the 1st of July 2019.

France banned the import, sale and manufacture of rinse-off cosmetics from 1st of January 2018.

India and Italy will ban microbeads as of 2020.

Netherlands announced its intention to ban microbeads by the end of 2016. Since then the Dutch government and people have worked hard to free their county of microbeads and not contribute to the huge global issue. The government took control and worked directly with manufactures to remove microbeads from their products.

New Zealand announced on the 4th of December 2017 that the the country would ban the sale and production of plastic microbeads. This fully came into effect including the import of microbeads as of the 7th of June 2018.

Taiwan banned the import and manufacture of microbeads on the 1st of January 2018 and banned the sale from the 1st of July in the same year.


Who hasn’t taken action against microbeads yet?

  • The EU has implemented no regional legislation yet but countries within the EU have such as the UK.
  • Ireland is somewhere in the middle. They have acknowledged the issue and it is expected to pass a law at the end of 2018.
  • South Africa, similar to Ireland it has acknowledged the issue but yet to take formal action.
  • I cannot list every single country that has not taken action but more countries could be doing a lot more. Microbeads aren’t essential and the world can ban them making only a positive change.

microbead cartoon


How to avoid microbeads?

  • Research products and make your voice heard. Choose products with no microbeads and increase the demand for microbead free products. Check out Beat The Microbead who have a product list for multiple countries.C
  • Check the ingredients list before purchase.
  • Help charities such as Greenpeace fight back by donating to their cause in helping clean up our oceans.


Your shopping choices, today, tomorrow and in the future can be your small One Change Now. Avoid plastics and help protect our planet.


Related blogs:

Ocean Plastic – What can we do today?
How do microplastics affect humans?
Ocean clean up – Fuerteventura.

4 thoughts on “What are microbeads?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s