A UK-wide prohibition on the use of plastic microbeads in the manufacture of some cosmetic and personal care products has come into effect. The ban initially prohibits the manufacture of such products and then a ban on sales will follow in July.

These tiny pieces of plastic are added to rinse-off products such as face scrubs, toothpastes and shower gels. The small spherical beads, designed to help with exfoliation are washed down the drain and often slip through waste-water treatment plants which then end up in the seas.

The government has been convinced to act after growing concern over the impact of these tiny plastic beads on marine life as they do not degrade over time and can transport toxic chemicals into marine organisms. The UK government first pledged to ban plastic microbeads in September 2016, following a United States ban in 2015.

Pressure is now mounting for action on plastic bottles as they make up a third of the plastic litter in the seas. In December, the UK’s environmental audit committee (EAC) of MPs called for a deposit return scheme, which has successfully increased recycling rates in other countries.

Mary Creagh MP, Environmental Audit Committee chair, said: “The microbead ban is a step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done. Since we called for a ban, my committee has also recommended the deposit return scheme, a latte levy for plastic-lined coffee cups and reforms to make producers responsible for their packaging. We look forward to hearing the government’s response.”

The Prime Minister, Theresa May tweeted: “In 2015 we introduced the 5p charge on plastic carrier bags, we now see 9bn fewer bags being used. It’s making a real difference. We want to do the same with single use plastics. Nobody who watched #BluePlanet2 will doubt the need for us to do something – and we will.”