Thank you for contacting me about plastic microbeads used in cosmetic products.
I understand and share your concerns about the impact these ingredients can have on the marine environment and fish. I was amazed to discover the extent of their use both in cosmetic and cleaning products. In sessions with the Environmental Audit Committee, I have been horrified to hear of their spread in the oceans. However I am pleased that the UK and our EU neighbours are now working with the industry to see their use phased out voluntarily.
The UK, along with several of our neighbours, is party to 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.
I am delighted to read that one of the large supermarket chains, Waitrose, has pledged, that by September 2016, they will not sell any branded cosmetic product containing microbeads. Their own branded rage has always been micro-plastic free and I hope the other supermarkets will follow their lead. Much of the cosmetic which use microbeads, could easily be replaced by natural ‘abrasive products’ such as rice, beans or dried apricot kernels.
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. Should this not be effective, I would be prepared to campaign for a total ban. I have certainly tried to impose one at home.
I hope this will address your concerns. Thank you again for taking the time to contact me about this important issue.