We are the Environmental Audit Committee. We scrutinise the UK Government on environmental protection and sustainable development.
For the last few months we've been looking into what action the Government should take on the environmental impact of microplastics.
We've heard evidence from scientists, environmental groups, industry representatives, cosmetics companies, and Government ministers & officials.
As a result, we are recommending that the Government introduce a ban on cosmetic microbeads.
What are microplastics?
Microplastics are tiny plastic particles which can pollute the ocean. They come from sources including personal care cosmetic products, the breakdown of large plastic waste, and synthetic fibers from clothing.
Cosmetic microbeads only make up a small proportion (between 0.01% and 4%) of microplastics entering the ocean.
But they are an avoidable environmental problem, and they are the source of microplastics about which most is known.
The impacts on fish and the marine environment are still being researched.
However, there is evidence that there is scope for significant harm to the marine environment from microplastics.
Up to 86 tonnes of microbeads from personal care products are washed into the marine environment from the UK every year.
Once in the ocean, they can be eaten by fish, mussels and zooplankton.
A single shower can result in 100,000 plastic particles being flushed into the sewage system.
Many cosmetics companies have made voluntary commitments to phase out microbeads.
However the commitment is not universal, there are inconsistencies in approach, and some companies will not phase out until 2020.
We are not convinced that voluntary action alone will be adequate to tackle the challenges of microbeads.