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In response to the Westminster Hall debate on the proposed ban on microbeads, Dr. Mike Barrett, WWF Director of Science and Policy, said

“It is encouraging to see MPs discussing the threats posed by plastics in our oceans, but we need urgent action across the globe too.  Plastics now litter much of our shores and our oceans.  The damage to marine life is easy to see with birds, fish, turtles and marine mammals regularly found dead having ingested plastic waste, which compounds the current loss of global wildlife. Banning microbeads is an important start to addressing the millions of tonnes of plastics entering the oceans every year. Action also needs to be taken by everyone in the supply chain to reduce, reuse and recycle, including us consumers.

“Without action on plastics and the other threats to wildlife we could be facing the first global mass extinction since the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

“It is a sad reflection of the impact we are having on our planet that the Anthropocene - a proposed new geological epoch in which humans dominate the planet’s environmental systems  - may be marked not only by this loss of wildlife but by plastics being deposited globally in ocean sediments. These actions will leave a permanent marker of the way we trashed our oceans in the geological record.”


More Information

Key Stats and footnotes:

  • The Great Winter Nurdle Hunt found that  205 of 279 beaches searched  (73%) had plastics nurdles on them. 230,000 tonnes of the plastic pellets are estimated to be entering the ocean in Europe annually.
  • Living Planet Index released by WWF and ZSL (Zoological Society of London)  reveals that overall global vertebrate populations are on course to decline by an average of 67 per cent from 1970 levels by the end of this decade, unless urgent action is taken to reduce humanity’s impact on species and ecosystems. Global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles have already declined by 58 per cent on average since 1970.  This is an average annual decline of two per cent, with no sign yet that this rate will decrease.
  • We use more than 300 million tonnes of new plastic every year. Half of that is used once, and for less than 12 minutes.


  • Microbeads and other microplastics are used in a variety of cosmetic and personal care products such as scrubs, soaps, lotions and toothpastes. They are added to these products for a number of purposes, such as to make the product more abrasive or for decoration.
  • In December 2016, the Government published a consultation on proposals to ban the manufacture and sale of cosmetics and personal care products containing microbeads in all of the UK by October 2017. The consultation closed on 28 February 2017.
  • The Westminster Hall debate on the proposed ban on microbeads is scheduled for Wednesday 8 March 2017 from 2.30pm to 4pm. The Member in charge is Rebecca Pow MP.
  • The Commons Environmental Audit Committee  is launching a probe into the environmental damage done by disposable drinks cups and plastic because only 23% of the 2.2 million tonnes of plastic used in the UK in 2014 was recycled. The committee is concerned there could be more plastics in the oceans than fish by 2050.


For more information,  please contact Jonathan Jones +44 (0)7824 416735 or

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