Plastics: Seas and Oceans

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 7th August 2020.

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Photo of Lord Pendry Lord Pendry Labour

To ask Her Majesty's Government what estimate they have made of the amount of ocean plastic debris globally; and what steps they are taking to prevent any increase in the volume of plastic waste entering oceans, in particular as a result of discarded face masks used during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo of Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park The Minister of State, Department for International Development, The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Minister of State

In 2017, the Government published its ‘Future of the Sea: plastic pollution’ report which supported the estimate that between 4.8 and 12.7 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean globally each year. The Government has introduced a ban on microbeads in rinse-off personal care products and a charge on single-use carrier bags. From October there will be a ban on the supply of plastic straws, cotton buds, and stirrers, with exemptions, and the Environment Bill includes powers to charge for single-use plastic items.

The Government has not carried out an assessment of the environmental impact of the disposal of single-use face masks. Waste management, including disposal, is regulated through the environmental permitting system in England, which seeks to protect the environment and human health. The latest Government advice on face coverings is available at:

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