Sanitary Products: Plastics

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 2nd October 2020.

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Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what discussions he has had with manufacturers of sanitary products on reducing the plastic content of those products.

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what estimate he has made of the contribution of sanitary products to plastic pollution in UK waters.

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

The UK collects data on the quantity and type of marine litter in our waters, including data on seafloor litter, floating litter and beach litter, following methods agreed through the OSPAR Convention’s monitoring and assessment programmes. This includes data on sanitary products. Data are available through the Marine Online Assessment Tool: https://moat.cefas.co.uk/

Cotton buds are recorded as a sanitary product and feature as a top ten item recorded on some UK beaches. Since 1 October this year there has been a ban on the supply of plastic straws, cotton buds and stirrers in England, with exemptions in place to ensure disabled people and those with medical conditions that require straws can continue to access them.

We are seeking new powers in our landmark Environment Bill to drive the market towards more sustainable products, including powers to introduce ecodesign requirements and to require retailers to charge for single-use plastic items.

Plastic does, however, have an important role to play in many products due to its strength and sterility. We must therefore think carefully about how we solve the problems arising from plastic waste in order to avoid unintended consequences. We regularly meet with producers, including of sanitary products, to discuss the overall sustainability of their products, and will continue to do so.

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