I understand and share concerns about the impact that plastic microbeads have on the marine environment and fish. That's why I'm pleased to tell you that the UK and our neighbouring countries are now working with the industry to see their use phased out voluntarily.
The UK, along with several of our neighbours is apart of an international organisation known as the Oslo and Paris Convention for the Protection of the North East Atlantic. One of its most important objectives is to reduce marine litter, and in 2014 its members agreed a regional action plan to address this problem. The plan includes action on microplastics, and involves co-operating with manufacturers to achieve a voluntary phase out of their use in cosmetics and personal care products.
Following this agreement the European trade body for the industry, Cosmetics Europe, issued a formal recommendation to its member companies to discontinue the use of microbeads in these products. It also noted that many of its member companies had done so already.
Ministers have consulted on proposals to ban the sale and manufacture of cosmetics and personal care products containing harmful microbeads, aiming to change legislation by October 2017. This consultation has now closed and the responses are being considered. It has also gathered evidence on the environmental impacts of microbeads found elsewhere, such as in household and industrial cleaning products, and consider what more can be done in future to tackle other plastics, such as microfibers, that also enter the marine environment.