Plastics: Seas and Oceans

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 16th May 2018.

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Photo of Lesley Laird Lesley Laird Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps his department is taking to (a) reduce and (b) remove plastic waste in the seas around the UK.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

To reduce plastic waste in our seas, we recently introduced one of the world’s strongest bans on harmful microbeads in rinse-off personal care products. Action is also being taken to improve water infrastructure, which is an important pathway for contaminants, including microfibres, to the wider aquatic environment. £2 billion investment is planned by 2020 to improve sewage treatment works and collecting systems to limit polluting events.

We have announced a £200,000 research project which will focus on microplastics derived from tyres and clothing, how they enter the marine environment and the impact they have.

To remove litter already in UK seas we support schemes such as Fishing for Litter, which supply commercial fishermen with bags to dispose of marine sourced litter collected during normal fishing operations. Additionally, because lost or abandoned fishing gear can trap and harm marine life we support the Global Ghost Gear Initiative. The initiative is an alliance of the fishing industry, NGOs and Government agencies working to solve the problem of ghost gear.

We fund the Marine Conversation Society to carry out beach cleans and collect data. This helps us monitor the levels of plastic pollution, and the data is used in combination with other monitoring data to inform our decisions about how to address marine litter.

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