Rivers: Microplastics

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 28th June 2019.

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Photo of Mark Hendrick Mark Hendrick Labour/Co-operative, Preston

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps his Department is taking to (a) track and (b) reduce the volume of microplastics in rivers; and whether his Department plans to introduce an independent regulatory body to enforce and monitor the reduction of microplastics in wastewater and rivers.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Defra is working with the Environment Agency, Highways England, academics and the UK water industry to understand the scale of the microplastic pollution problem and to establish detection methods to monitor, characterise and quantify the types of microplastics entering our rivers. There has been substantive research reporting the presence and impacts of microplastics in the marine environment. However, little is known about their sources, release and impact on freshwaters and their ultimate transport to the marine environment. Defra has commissioned evidence reviews to further understand these issues and will use the outcomes from these and other research to develop policy options.

The Government has set a target to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste within the lifetime of the 25 year Environment Plan (by 2042) and set aside £20 million for research and development managed through the Plastics Innovation Fund in March 2018. A further £10 million was committed in the 2018 Autumn Budget for continued/additional plastics research and development along with £10 million to pioneer innovative approaches to boosting recycling and reducing litter.

The Department does not plan to introduce an independent regulatory body to enforce and monitor the reduction of microplastics in wastewaters and receiving rivers.

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