[UK] Scientists have shown the microbeads can be passed through the food chain, often accumulating in large numbers in predators such as whales and seabirds.
The plastics are also thought to release potentially toxic chemicals as they break down which can harm the animals that eat them.
Cosmetics Europe said it was recommending its members ‘discontinue’ the use of microbeads in ‘wash off cosmetic and personal care products for exfoliating and cleansing purposes’ from 2020.
Instead, companies should seek alternative natural exfoliants to replace microbeads, such as ground fruit seeds.
But the a statement released by the organisation seemed to suggest company’s may still be free to use some types of biodegradable plastics.
It said: ‘Cosmetics Europe recommends its membership to discontinue, in wash-off cosmetic products placed on the market as of 2020, the use of synthetic, solid plastic particles used for exfoliating and cleansing that are non-biodegradable in the marine environment.’
Mr Loïc Armand, president of Cosmetics Europe, added: ‘In adopting this recommendation, Cosmetics Europe and its membership are addressing public concerns, and committing to work with regulators on a science based approach to the issue of plastic micro particles.
‘We are also committed to building, with other international associations, global alignment of the cosmetics industry on this issue.’
The news was given a cautious welcome by environmental groups but many warned the deadline of 2020 was still to far away.
Zooplankton has also been filmed eating tiny plastic microbeads, suggesting its impact on the food chain may be even greater than had been believed.
Plankton’s plastic diet
Plastic has been found inside the digestive tracts of turtles, sea birds and whales, but it appears plastic litter in our oceans is also clogging up the insides of the tiny plankton that many larger sea creatures feed on.
For the first time copepods – tiny creatures that feed on algae in the ocean – have been filmed eating grains of plastic while they are feeding.
The video shows microscopic polystyrene beads being drawn towards the creature by its legs and eaten. The beads can be seen accumulating in the creature’s body.
Normally copepods feed on certain species of algae using chemical and touch receptors to discriminate what they can eat and discard what they will not.
The video provides growing evidence that the volumes of plastic litter finding its way into the world’s oceans is having a profound impact on wildlife and ecosystems.
An estimated eight million tons of plastic is dumped in the oceans every year, with fishing nets and plastic bags causing severe problems for some large species.
Dr Laura Foster, head of pollution at the Marine Conservation Society, said: ‘Cosmetics Europe’s recommendation is not broad and ambitious enough, but it demonstrates a clear willingness to work towards reducing the amount of plastic litter in the marine environment.
‘It represents a logical step, emphasising the widely available alternatives first, towards an all-encompassing discontinuation of unsustainable solid microplastics in personal care and cosmetic products.’
Cosmetic Europe’s recommendation comes just weeks after California became the ninth state in the US to ban plastic microbeads in personal hygiene products.
In July Canada also announced it intended ban microbeads from personal-care products.
Many cosmetics companies have also said independently they will stop using the plastic beads in their products.
Dr Sue Kinsey, litter policy officer that the Marine Conservation Society, added: ‘It’s incredible how many everyday products contain micro plastic beads.
‘These find their way through our sewers and into our seas where they are easily eaten by all sorts of marine animals.’
Emma Priestland, marine litter policy officer of Seas At Risk, told The Times: ‘Plastic has no place in personal care products.’
She said legislation was needed to ban microbeads altogether.
Microplastics discovered in table salt
Table salt sold in China has been found to contain plastic.
The highest proportion of plastic was found in sea salt, but salt from mines, briny lakes and wells also contained significant amounts.
Shi Huahong, from the East China Normal University in Shanghai and his colleagues, discovered between 550 and 681 microplastic particles per kilogram of table salt that originated from the ocean.
They said: ‘Microplastics are a particular threat to organisms due to their small size and their capacity to absorb persistent organic pollutants.’
They added it was likely salt sold in other parts of the world would contain similar levels of plastic.
View original article at: No more plastic in shower gels and face scrubs