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Government ban on microplastics led by Devon scientist’s research

By November 7, 2017January 26th, 2021Member News & Updates, STEMM, Why Exeter blog

A Devon marine biologist who influenced a government ban on microbeads in cosmetics has been sharing her story with delegates at The STEMM Cell @ Exeter Science Park.

Imogen Napper – a PhD researcher at University of Plymouth – led a research project that contributed to the government’s decision to ban microbeads and microplastics from everyday products, including facial scrubs, shower gels and toothpaste, so they can no longer infiltrate our seas and be swallowed by wildlife.

Experts believe microplastics found in common household cosmetics pose a serious risk to human health. The UK government announced a ban in September 2016, with the outlawing of the manufacture of products containing microbeads expected in January 2018 and sales prohibited from June.

Imogen said: “Plastic is so good at its job and that’s the problem, we don’t know what to do with it after. It’s the perfect material, but we’ve yet worked out how to dispose of it effectively, and it’s thought that the first plastic ever made is still on earth.

“Education really is the key to making a change to world health and reducing the impact that plastic has on our environment. Often, people aren’t aware of microplastics in everyday products, such as cosmetics or microfibres on clothes, so it’s important to educate both people and businesses so we can all make a positive change.”

The STEMM Cell talks are designed to inform, entertain and engage in bitesize early evening sessions and are being run in partnership with the SETsquared Exeter incubator, and facilitated by KOR Communications.

Joe Pearce, Business Support Manager for SETsquared Exeter and Exeter Science Park, said: “Our mission is to nurture and grow innovative companies within science and technology sectors, so by bringing together researchers, thought-leaders, academics and entrepreneurs at these events, we’re creating a knowledge sharing platform to support business growth.

“Imogen’s research was integral to the government ban on microbeads, something that was having such a huge impact on our environment, so it was fascinating to hear how her work, along with that of others, has brought about change.”


The Autumn/Winter schedule of The STEMM Cell @ Exeter Science Park events also includes:

8th November: The FAB Project – A ground breaking engineering project running a sub-sea electrical interconnector from France to Britain

15th November: Leadership without words

6th December: Meet the neighbours – Lidl’s distribution centre in Exeter


Attendees are welcome to arrive and use the Science Park Centre facilities from 3:00pm, with networking due to start at 5:00pm. Presentations start at 5:30pm, followed by a Q&A session.

Tickets are priced at £10 per event, with a charity donation going to the Devon Community Foundation at the end of the year. For more information and to book your tickets, visit