As of yesterday, cosmetics and personal care items in the U.K. can no longer include plastic microbeads. This ban only covers manufacturing at the time, but sale of products that include microbeads will take effect in July, according to The Guardian.
The reasoning behind this is to prevent the plastic microbeads from making their way into the oceans and waterways, which can cause harm to wildlife as well as humans. In September 2016, the U.K. government first moved to ban the microbeads, following the U.S.'s lead in 2015. Canada followed suit in 2016.
Laws prohibiting the manufacture of personal care items with plastic microbeads took effect last week in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, New Jersy and Wisconsin. Those same states will implement the ban on the products' sale in 2020.
Even before the U.K. officially made the call to stop the use of microbeads, companies like Tesco started to phase out the products over the last two years.
"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," environment minister Thérèse Coffey told The Guardian. "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."
With this decision, a precedent is set for other environmentally-focused legislation, especially those that protect the island's coasts and waterways, such as bans on single-use plastic bottles and programs to increase recycling rates.
"The microbead ban is a step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done," Mary Creagh, Member of Parliament and chair of Parliament's Environmental Audit Committee, said. "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."
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May commented on the government's desires to implement more environmental policy going forward, too.
Our ban on microbeads is coming into force today. It will stop billions of pieces of plastic entering our ecosystem, helping to protect our precious seas and oceans. pic.twitter.com/gG39Dc0aLS
— Theresa May (@theresa_may) January 9, 2018
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. #Marr
— Theresa May (@theresa_may) January 7, 2018
As these laws become more common all over the world, it could impact manufacturers and distributors of paper and plastic single-use drinkware items, like coffee cups and water bottles.