• The use of microbeads in cosmetic products

    It is alarming that only 5% of our plastics are recycled and another 40% end up in landfill, while a third is never collected and ends up clogging up our sewers and polluting our ecosystems. As a result, globally, about 8 million tonnes of plastic enter our oceans every year. I am concerned that current Government policy in the UK has failed to provide the right framework for stopping litter from reaching the sea or indeed to prevent it at source.

    This is hugely damaging to our marine animals and ecosystems. Indeed, it is estimated 90% of birds have plastic in their stomachs and serious concerns have also been raised about small plastics, such as microbeads, entering the human food chain. I share these concerns.

    I have long supported a ban on microbeads in cosmetic products and I welcome the Government’s commitment to legislate for this ban in October 2017. As you mentioned in your letter, the Government is currently consulting on a ban of microplastics for cosmetics and personal care products. I know that Greenpeace in particular has expressed concern that the consultation does not cover all products that contain microplastic ingredients.

    It is worth noting that the Government has said it will gather evidence on the environmental impacts of microbeads found in other products, including those for domestic use, before it considers what more can be done to tackle other plastics, such as microfibers, which affect the marine environment. The consultation closes on 28 February 2017 and I will continue to follow developments on this closely.

    To reduce marine litter and plastic pollution more widely, I believe that we need to rethink the way we manage resources and in particular, to transform how plastics travel through our economy. I believe that the Government’s commitment to ban microbeads in cosmetic products is an important first step but that further action is still required.