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Environment

U.K. aims to reduce microplastics in oceans

by Cheryl Hogue
September 12, 2016 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 94, ISSUE 36

The U.K. is developing policies to stop microplastics from ending up in oceans and seas. U.K. Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom earlier this month announced plans to ban the manufacture and sale of minuteplastic beads used in some cosmetics and personal care products. Leadsom points out that 25 U.K. companies that make cosmetics and toiletries are voluntarily phasing out microbeads from their products. After banning tiny plastic spheres in these items, she says, the U.K. government will gather data on the extent of environmental harm from microbeads used in household and industrial cleaning products. In the future, the U.K. will study how to prevent small fragments of plastic, such as microfibers from synthetic fabrics, from entering the marine environment. Wastewater treatment plants don’t remove small bits of plastic, which are resistant to biodegradation, so they end up in the world’s oceans and lakes. Toxic substances can adsorb onto these particles, which are often ingested by fish and other sea life.

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