THE Government is set to ban the sale and manufacture of cosmetics and personal care products containing microbeads following a year-long campaign by Taunton Deane MP Rebecca Pow.

Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsome has announced plans to outlaw the tiny plastic beads, which have been blamed for damaging our marine environment and entering the food chain.

Ms Pow said hundreds of thousands of them are washed down the drain every time we take a shower, wash our hair or clean our teeth using a product containing them.

As they are only 5mm in size, they cannot be filtered out by water companies and subsequently end up in the oceans, where they are ingested by fish and shellfish, potentially having a harmful effect on their reproduction and a knock-on impact on humans.

Ms Pow said she is delighted Andrea Leadsome "has listened to my call for a ban".

The Taunton Deane MP added: "As well as running a social media campaign encouraging consumers to seek out micro bead free alternatives and calling for a ban on micro plastics, I also took part in the Environmental Audit Select Committee inquiry into the impact of micro beads which has recently published its conclusion calling for a ban.

"It was this pressure, together with that of many environmental organisations and other like-minded individuals, that convinced the Secretary of State to take action and I welcome it."

A consultation will be launched later this year to establish how and when a ban could be introduced, aiming to change legislation next year.

Evidence will also be gathered on the environmental impacts of microbeads found elsewhere, such as in household and industrial cleaning products, before considering what else might be done in future to tackle other plastics such as microfibres in clothing, which also enter the marine environment and are not filtered out by washing machines or water companies.

Ms Pow said 25 UK cosmetics and toiletries companies, including Unilever and Waitrose, are adopting a voluntary phase out, a legislative ban will tackle inconsistency and stop new products containing micro plastics from being sold in this country.

Manufacturers are exploring natural alternatives, including nut shells, salt and sugar, which have the same exfoliating properties but do not pose a threat to the environment.

The ban follows the successful introduction of the 5p plastic carrier bag charge which has led to six billion fewer bags issued this year.