Fauna & Flora International to provide evidence in UK government microplastic inquiry

On 24 May 2016, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is set to discuss the growing issue of microplastic pollution with Members of Parliament from various UK political parties. FFI sees this as an opportunity to highlight the risks posed by the extensive use of solid microplastics in personal care and cosmetic products. FFI has developed a reputation as a leader in this field through its work on the Good Scrub Guide, which encourages consumer brands to go plastic-free. FFI also works on reducing other direct sources of marine microplastic pollution, including the spillage of pre-production resin pellets (or ‘nurdles’) – the raw material used in the plastics industry.

The inquiry is being led by the UK government’s Environmental Audit Committee and will focus on the impact that all forms of microplastic pollution have on both the environment and human health. As well as highlighting the harm that microplastics are known to cause to a variety of marine and freshwater species, FFI is keen to show that there are relatively straightforward solutions to some of the most common sources of microplastic pollution, and will argue that these ‘quick wins’ should harnessed as quickly as possible.

“There are many ways that small plastic particles can reach the sea, and once there they can be eaten by marine life. Some of these sources are more difficult to prevent than others but the use of microplastics in down-the-drain consumer products and poor handling of pre-production pellets are two direct sources that can be easily prevented,” said Daniel Steadman, FFI’s Marine Plastics Projects Manager.

Microplastics and nurdles. Credit: Olivia Bailey/FFI.

Solid microplastics are found in personal care and cosmetic products. Credit: Olivia Bailey/FFI.

“We believe that by harnessing our existing knowledge and taking action to address these specific and tractable sources of microplastic pollution, the UK government can have a real and rapid impact on making our seas healthier and more productive.”

FFI’s research has revealed that astonishing range of common household products contain solid microplastics (including toothpastes, shampoos and cleaning products) and the charity says more clarity and transparency is needed for consumers.

Nurdles. Credit: Olivia Bailey/FFI.

Poor handling of pre-production pellets can cause marine microplastic pollution. Credit: Olivia Bailey/FFI.

Dr Abigail Entwistle says, “We have worked with key players in the industry for over three years, and are delighted by how many have made robust commitments to replace microplastics in their products over this time. However there are still companies out there that have failed to make such commitments, and others for which confusion around the nature of the ingredients used coupled with loopholes in wording and the timeframes proposed may weaken the value of their proposed commitments. We support any measure by the UK government that creates a level playing field for the industry and which prevents ongoing release of potentially damaging microplastics to the marine environment from seemingly innocuous cosmetics and personal care products.”

The Environmental Audit Committee discussion will be streamed live on Parliament TV from 10am on Tuesday 24 May.