Thank you for contacting me about plastic microbeads.
I understand and share your concerns about the impact these ingredients can have on the marine environment and fish. That is why I am pleased that following work with the industry to achieve a voluntary phase-out, the Government has, as you mentioned in your email, announced plans to ban them from cosmetic products completely.
As you may be aware the Government has launched a consultation on its proposals to ban the sale and manufacture of cosmetics and personal care products containing harmful microbeads. This consultation will run until 28 February.
In relation to the specific points raised in your e-mail, rather than wait till the next DEFRA Questions session I have made some specific enquiries about what plans there are in relation to microbeads in other products. The consultation is not just on the proposed ban, but also covers gathering evidence on the environmental impacts of microbeads found elsewhere, such as in household and industrial cleaning products, and considering what more can be done in future to tackle other plastics, such as microfibers, that also enter the marine environment. You can read the detail of the consultation documents on DEFRA’s website, along with how to respond to it, by clicking here.
I understand that manufacturers are exploring natural alternatives to plastic microbeads, including nut shells, salt and sugar. These have the same exfoliating properties but do not threaten the environment, so products containing them should perform just as well.
Clearly there is an international dimension to this issue so I am pleased to say that the UK, along with several of our neighbours, is party to an international organisation known as the Oslo and Paris Convention for the Protection of the North East Atlantic. In 2014 its members agreed a regional action plan to address marine litter, one of its most important objectives. The plan includes international action on microplastics.
I hope this will address your concerns and thank you again for taking the time to contact me about this important issue.