Providing technical expertise
Beyond the UK microbead ban consultation, Fauna & Flora is also providing technical input to other formal consultations regarding, for example, the practicalities of implementing a Europe-wide ban.
In January 2017, Fauna & Flora issued a guidance document designed to help businesses frame their voluntary commitments relating to the use of microplastic ingredients and to guide policymakers seeking to ban the sale and manufacture of products containing such ingredients. We are also continuing to assess the extent of microplastic use in other consumer products (including household cleaners and make-up).
We have also shared our experiences to help others work towards achieving bans around the world. This includes developing the Good Scrub Guide in Australia and working with Surfrider and Tangaroa Blue Foundation to raise the profile of this issue Down Under.
At the start of 2016, Fauna & Flora helped form the European Pellet Loss Coalition of 13 NGOs from seven countries in order to facilitate the exchange and collation of technical expertise on microplastic pollution from pellet loss, which resulted in a detailed briefing note with recommendations for policymakers.
Fauna & Flora has also issued brief guidelines on tackling pellet loss in the supply chain for companies using these materials, together with suggested questions that companies can send to plastic suppliers to start conversations that encourage best practices in handling pellets.
Fauna & Flora is also providing advice and support on the emerging issue of microfibre pollution through a collaborative, supply chain-focused project with the fashion industry. Synthetic clothing is increasingly recognised as a source of microplastic pollution, though fibres from many types of non-synthetic textiles also persist in the environment. Researchers have found fibre pollution at the top of the world’s highest mountain ranges and its deepest ocean trenches, and fibres are ingested by a wide range of wildlife, including commercially important species destined for many peoples’ plates.
As specialists in the impacts of marine plastic pollution, Fauna & Flora’s core focus is on prevention, as far upstream as possible. Increasingly, we see ‘alternative’ plastics – so-called plant-based, biobased, biodegradable and compostable plastics – being put forward as a convenient solution to the problems of plastic pollution, including the sources of pollution, such as fibres, that we work to prevent. However, although research and development are ongoing in the search for materials that don’t carry the risk of environmental damage, FFI is concerned that a switch to ‘alternative plastics’ is giving rise to a range of unintended consequences and that consequently, these materials do not necessarily pose less harm to the environment than the conventional plastic they seek to replace. We have outlined these considerations in our 2022 briefing, Alternative plastic: Is it the answer to ending marine plastic pollution?
While a significant amount of work to date has focused on microplastic pollution, we don’t discount the problems caused by larger items of plastic such as packaging materials and abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear, and are working with our partners at coastal and marine sites around the world in order to identify locally appropriate solutions that reduce the source and impacts of ocean plastics in these places.