As of Tuesday 9 January, plastic microbeads cannot be added to cosmetic and personal care products in the UK.
For now, the ban covers the manufacture of these products, and from July, the products will no longer be able to be sold.
“We are delighted that such a robust microbead ban has come into force,” said Dr Sue Kinsey, senior pollution policy officer at the Marine Conservation Society (MCS).
“This is the strongest and most comprehensive ban to be enacted in the world and will help to stem the flow of micro plastics into our oceans.”
The ban was first promised in 2016 by the UK government, after a campaign from the microbeads coalition, which includes the Environmental Investigation Agency, Fauna & Flora International, Greenpeace UK and MCS.
Prior to the ban, microbeads were added to a range of products including exfoliating scrubs and toothpastes.
After being rinsed off, they are washed into the marine environment and it is estimated that thousands of tonnes of the plastic microbeads reach the sea each year, where they are ingested by marine animals.
“Microbeads are entirely unnecessary when there are so many natural alternatives available,” says environment minister Thérèse Coffey. “I am delighted that from today cosmetics manufacturers will no longer be able to add this harmful plastic to their rinse off products.”
“Now we have reached this important milestone, we will explore how we can build on our world-leading ban and tackle other forms of plastic waste.”