Thank you for your email regarding plastic microbeads and their existence in a huge variety of products. I share your concerns about the impact these ingredients can have on the marine environment and fish. I am pleased that, following work with the industry to achieve a voluntary phase-out, the Government has announced plans to ban them from cosmetic products completely.
The Government has recently launched a consultation on proposals to ban the sale and manufacture of cosmetics and personal care products containing harmful microbeads. It will also gather evidence on the environmental impacts of microbeads found in cleaning products, and to consider what more can be done in future to tackle other plastics, such as microfibers, that also enter the marine environment.
You may be aware that the UK is a part of 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.
Manufacturers have begun exploring natural alternatives to plastic microbeads, including that of nut shells, salt and sugar. These have the same exfoliating properties but do not threaten the environment, so the products containing them should perform just as well.
Thank you once again for contacting me, please do not hesitate to get in contact with me if you require any further information.
Derek Thomas MP
For St Ives, West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly