A ban on the manufacture of microbeads, those tiny bits of plastic used in some exfoliating cosmetic products, took effect Tuesday in the U.K. The move bars manufacturers from putting them in skin lotions, toothpastes or any other items meant to be rinsed off - and it presages a ban on the sale of such products that will take effect there in July.
According to The New York Times, "Microbeads that wash down drains can not be filtered out by many wastewater treatment plants, meaning that tiny plastics slip easily into waterways".
However, the chairwoman of the government's environmental audit committee (EAP), Mary Creagh MP, called for more action to tackle ocean plastic.
Politicians and activists hailed the move, which follows a similar US law signed in 2015, as a welcome step toward diminishing the amount of plastic washed into the ocean. Some have criticized the ban for not including other types of products that contain microbeads, such as sunscreen, lipstick, and paints.
But Kinsey said there were still "lots of products that are not included in the ban".
"The world's oceans are some of our most valuable natural assets and I am determined we act now to tackle the plastic that devastates our precious marine life", said the UK's environmental minister Thérèse Coffey, according to the Guardian.
The ban on the manufacture of products containing microbeads will be followed by a ban on the sale of such products in July.
"This is a step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done", Creagh continued.
Experts say that in the course of a single shower, about 100,000 plastic particles from gels can enter the sewage system.
This ban will now stop billions of pieces of the plastic ending up in the ocean every year.
"Since the ban recommendation, my committee has also recommended that we should have a deposit return scheme, the latte levy because of the recyclability of coffee cups and we've also recommended that producers who make hard to recycle products are forced to pay more for them".
"With [BBC One programme] Blue Planet II awakening public horror at what plastic pollution is doing to whales and other wildlife, and the current crisis created by China's refusal to take all but the UK's best quality recycling, it's clear that a wholesale review of United Kingdom waste prevention policies is desperately needed".
In an earlier tweet, May suggested that her government would do more to reduce waste plastic.
Microbeads, which are made from ground plastic pellets like those above, are used in products ranging from facial scrubs to toothpaste.
Microbeads are often used in skincare products to encourage exfoliation.
Many cosmetics companies have already stopped using microbeads.