London (CNN)The UK government outlawed the manufacture of products containing microbeads on Tuesday in what it says is one of the world's toughest bans on the tiny plastic particles.
The UK now has one of world's toughest microbead bans
The move comes amid a greater public awareness of the build-up of plastics in the world's oceans. Microbeads, which are found in a number of cosmetic products, have prompted their own concerns because of their impact on marine life -- they can enter the food chain for fish and other sea creatures, exposing them to toxic chemicals that can in turn end up on our plates.
UK Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey called the "world-leading" ban an "important milestone" in a statement.
"Microbeads are entirely unnecessary when there are so many natural alternatives available," Coffey added.
A ban on the sale of products containing microbeads will take effect later this year.
The US, Canada and New Zealand are among the countries that have banned the use of microbeads in products. Sweden, Austria, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Belgium have issued a joint call to outlaw the tiny particles.
The ban was recommended by the UK Parliament's Environmental Audit Committee, which recently called for a tax on plastic-lined coffee cups and a deposit return program for plastic bottles, and wants to force producers to take more responsibility for their packaging.
"We are delighted that such a robust microbead ban has come into force," Sue Kinsey, senior pollution officer at the non-profit Marine Conservation Society, said in a statement.