VIEW FROM THE HOUSE
CONSTITUENTS who have visited the seaside or our inland waterways over the summer months will probably be very pleased that one of the first decisions taken, as the House of Commons assembled in September, was to help protect the marine environment.
There are plans to ban the sale and manufacture of cosmetics and other personal care products which use microbeads.
Billions of minute plastic beads are being used in products like face scrubs or shower gels. They are even used in toothpaste. These microbeads end up in the drainage system and from there enter the sea, where they build up in the marine environment. They may be swallowed by fish and other sea creatures. There is concern that they could end up in the human food chain.
Over the summer, the Environment Audit Committee of the House of Commons recommended that this ban should be put into place. Their report pointed out that one shower can produce 100,000 plastic particles. Overall, microbeads from facial exfoliant products alone are estimated to add up to 86 tonnes of microplastics entering the marine environment in the United Kingdom.
There will be an initial consultation on banning the manufacture and sale in cosmetic products. There are also plans to gather evidence on the environmental impact of plastic microbeads used in household and industrial cleaning products. In the longer term, the plan is to examine the impact of other materials like microfibres on the marine environment.
I have already seen a big change in the amount of litter from plastic bags, since the introduction of the 5p plastic bag charge. This has resulted in six billion fewer plastic bags being issued this year. There might not be such a visible indicator for microbeads, but the seas and oceans face a big pollution problem from plastic waste, irrespective of its size.