310,000 people call for microbead ban in cosmetic products on World Oceans Day

Publication date: 8th June 2016

London, 8 June 2016 – A coalition of environmental groups marked World Oceans Day by presenting David Cameron with a petition signed by more than 300,000 people calling for the Prime Minister to ban the toxic microplastic particles known as microbeads.

Found in products such as facial scrubs and toothpaste, millions of the tiny plastics are flushed unwittingly into the world’s oceans every year where they ultimately end up in the marine food chain.

A report published last week found that fish can become smaller and slower due to the effects of eating microplastics.

The long list of names were presented at Number 10 by representatives of Greenpeace UK, the Environmental investigation Agency (EIA), Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the Marine Conservation Society (MCS).

Rosie Rogers, senior political advisor, at Greenpeace UK, said:

“The public outcry for a ban on microbeads is unprecedented. Our own polling has shown that the public is overwhelmingly  behind any action that would stop our everyday skincare products or toothpastes inadvertently polluting the ocean.

“On World Oceans Day it’s worth remembering that the impact of the plastics we release into the marine ecosystem has never been more detrimental and shows no sign of slowing. Fortunately microbeads are one of those rare things – an environmental problem that is pretty easy to solve with a simple and straightforward ban. Hundreds of thousands of us clearly want David Cameron to show leadership and ban microbeads.”

Microbeads were banned by President Obama in the US last year, and the UK government has already referred to the tiny plastics as a “very serious” problem for the marine habitat, saying it would support a ban in principle.

The Environmental Audit Commission (EAC) has been conducting an investigation into the potential threats posed by the use of microbeads and was due to be hearing further evidence on Wednesday ahead of the publication of its report.

Despite pledges from industry to phase out the manufacture and use of microbeads, FFI has voiced concerns that leading multinational companies are exploiting loopholes in the definition of “microbeads” and therefore continuing to produce products that pose a pollution risk.

Daniel Steadman of Fauna & Flora International said:

“We’re worried that some of the commitments made to date are not ambitious enough – either in terms of their timeframes or the range of microplastic ingredients they are pledging to phase out. By removing any inconsistencies a loophole-free ban would create a level playing field for the entire industry and end this unnecessary and preventable source of pollution.”

About 8 million tonnes of plastics are estimated to end up in the oceans every year. A recent report commissioned by the UN showed that microplastics are an increasing threat to human health.

The petition calling for a ban on microbeads was signed by more than 310,000 people.

Notes to editors:

To read the recent UN report on microplastics click here

To read the report on the effect of microplastics on juvenile fish click here

For pictures of lab testing of microbeads and of today’s petition hand-in, click here

Media queries:

Greg Norman, Press Officer, Greenpeace UK, +44 (0)7801 212 976, gnorman@greenpeace.org

Paul Newman, Press & Communications Officer, Environmental Investigation Agency, +44 (0)207 354 7960, paulnewman@eia-international.org

Sarah Rakowski, Communications Manager, Fauna & Flora International, +44 (0)1223 747 659, sarah.rakowski@fauna-flora.org

Richard Harrington, Head of Communications, Marine Conservation Society, +44 (0)7793 118384, richard.harrington@mcsuk.org