Marine life and Microbeads
The UK government has stated that it will consider a ban on plastic microbeads in products such as face scrubs, toothpaste and shower gels. The beads which are designed to exfoliate, are often less than a millimetre wide and so missed by water filters when rinsed off and ultimately make their way into the sea. They are made of non-biodegradable plastic, so will not break down.
Further research needs to be conducted to determine how damaging the beads are for marine life, but current evidence suggests that sea-dwelling creatures at the bottom of the food chain are ingesting the plastic. It is possible that this has wider implications across our food chain as a whole. The fear surrounding marine microplastic pollution has led to a cross-party Environmental Audit Committee warning that increasing amounts of damage to sealife can lead to potential harm to human health, as a result of plastic being ingested and accumulating in marine life such as mussels and oysters.
Micro Plastic Contamination
One study found micro plastic contamination to be present in over 30% of fish in the English Channel, leading to concerns that the problem was worse than originally anticipated. Mary Creagh MP, the Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee stated ‘the most effective way to reduce microplastic pollution is to prevent plastic entering our waters in the first place. Cosmetic companies need to clean up their act and phase out the plastic microbeads causing marine pollution. If they refuse to act, the Environmental Audit Committee will consider calling for a full ban on microbeads.’
Canada and the USA have already banned the inclusion of plastic microbeads in cosmetic products, and over 20 UK companies are committed to become microbead-free, including Colgate-Palmolive and Unilever.
Water UK Director of Environment, Sarah Mukherjee, added ‘water companies work hard to help maintain rivers, lakes and streams that are abundant with life, and to make sure that the fantastic and unique wildlife of the British Isles can thrive. Evidence suggests that the tiny bits of plastic in some cosmetics and shower gels can get through companies' systems and into the environment, and so we will follow the government's decision with interest.’
To find out more about Marine conservation see http://www.mcsuk.org/