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Microplastics: Pollution Control

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 11th May 2020.

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Photo of Alberto Costa Alberto Costa Conservative, South Leicestershire

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps his Department is taking to tackle microfibre plastic pollution originating from clothes washing.

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

There has been substantive research reporting the presence and impacts of microplastics and microfibres in the marine environment. However, little is known about their sources, release and impact on freshwaters and their transport to the marine environment. Defra has therefore commissioned evidence reviews based on the following questions:

  • Are the current sampling and analytical methods used to provide data on the presence of microplastics in freshwater matrices, as well as other environmental materials, scientifically robust and appropriate?
  • What are the sources of microplastics reported to have been found in freshwater environments?
  • What is/are the impact(s) of microplastics on freshwater biota?

Defra is also working with the Environment Agency and the UK water industry to establish methods to detect, characterise and quantify microplastics entering wastewater treatment works, to evaluate the efficiency of treatment processes for their removal from domestic wastewaters and to assess their fate and biological effects in receiving rivers. In addition, Defra has commissioned the University of Plymouth to carry out research into textiles and tyres which are estimated to be significant sources of microplastics in the marine environment, and the Drinking Water Inspectorate has commissioned research on removal of microplastics by drinking water treatment processes.

The outcomes from these research projects will be used in the development of policy options to help mitigate the impact of microplastics in the aquatic environment.

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