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Microbeads in the spotlight!

Posted by Louisa Casson - 2nd March 2017


This week, microbeads shot up the political agenda (again) – thanks to Greenpeace supporters (again!) and a host of coalition members.

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At the end of February we asked you to get in touch with your MPs to ask them to grill ministers on their plans to ban microbeads.

Microbeads are tiny bits of plastic found in a range of products that wash down the drain and pollute our precious oceans.

Nearly 20,000 of you contacted your MPs, telling them why you think it’s so important to ban these harmful bits of plastic entering every level of the food chain – and even ending up on our plates in seafood.

Because of the action of Greenpeace supporters, microbeads were top of the agenda when environment ministers were up for questions in Parliament today, with MPs across the political spectrum raising the issue of ocean plastics and microbeads.

The Government agreed to ban microbeads last summer, after a staggering 350,000 of you signed a petition. We worked with our coalition partners to pile on the pressure in Parliament and in the media.

The Government’s consultation on the details of the ban closed last Tuesday, and MPs this morning lost no time in emphasising that we need a comprehensive ban to protect our oceans from this plastic menace. The current proposal doesn’t go far enough to tackle microplastics found in some types of make-up and sunscreen, as well as industrial cleaning products – which is why we needed MPs to get the message through to ministers.

In today’s parliamentary debate, Conservative MP Philip Hollobone even urged the Government  “to adopt the Greenpeace definition of microbeads” – that’s all solid water insoluble microplastic ingredients of 5mm or less in any dimension used for any purpose.

Lib Dem MP Tom Brake then asked the Government “to go further than the US ban and ban all products with microbeads in them that risk getting into the marine environment” – which is a key ask from Greenpeace and our coalition partners.

Other MPs also raised the issues of microbeads and ocean plastics, including Conservative MP Steve Double and Labour’s Kerry McCarthy.

All of this pressure helps to give the Government food for thought when finalising their plans to ban microbeads over the coming weeks. Therese Coffey, the Minister responsible for the consultation decision on microbeads, admitted that “we’re all stewards of the ocean”, and has promised to keep looking at these issues – which is fantastic!

To top off this great week for microbeads, the issue was raised in Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday. This session is attended by every MP and is watched by a lot of political influencers, media and business. Conservative MP Rebecca Pow’s question on microbeads forced Theresa May to admit she didn’t know about other MPs’ showering habits – but crucially, this question prompted the Prime Minister to say, “I’m sure that together we can all work to bring an end to these harmful plastics clogging up our oceans.”

We’ll be keeping our eyes out for the final plans the Government produce to tackle microbeads – but they couldn’t have got a stronger signal this week that Greenpeace supporters will not let this issue go away until we end the flow of plastics into the ocean.


Article Tagged as: Plastics, plastic


About Louisa Casson

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I'm a campaigner in Greenpeace UK's oceans team, helping to end the flow of plastic polluting our oceans

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