The Guardian – Environment minister George Eustice tells MPs’ committee that the government supports a ban on polluting plastic microbeads in cosmetics.

The UK government now fully backs a legal ban on polluting plastic microbeads in cosmetics and toiletries, environment minister George Eustice said on Tuesday.

A ban across the EU could be passed as early as 2017, he said, to stop the tiny particles entering the seas and harming wildlife.

Eustice argued in favour of a voluntary phase-out by the industry as recently as March, but said the issue had moved on after the US introduced a ban.

“We now support a ban on microbeads in cosmetics and are working with other EU countries to get it on the agenda at a European level,” Eustice told MPs on the environment audit committee. “I think it is right to push ahead with a ban.”

Eustice wants the UK to leave the EU in the forthcoming referendum but said he was representing the government in front of the committee and praised the benefits of EU action: “It is better to progress this at an EU level and get others to do the same.”

Microbeads are widely used in toiletries and cosmetics but thousands of tonnes wash into the sea every year, where they harm wildlife and can ultimately be eaten by people. A petition signed by more than 300,000 people asking for a ban was delivered to David Cameron last week.

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