Plastic pollution on beach

Microplastics – tiny fragments, big problem

Plastic pollution, nothing to smile about. Image credit: Kelvin Boot. 

MPs on the cross-party Environmental Audit Committee have recommended a ban on plastic microbeads used in cosmetics and toiletries, following a report published this week.

Microplastics are tiny plastic particles which can pollute the ocean. They come from sources including personal care cosmetic products, the breakdown of large plastic waste, and synthetic fibres from clothing.
PML scientists fed into the report ‘Environmental impact of microplastics’ providing evidence to the parliamentary inquiry, based on ongoing research to increase understanding and assessment of the risk that these plastic fragments may pose to organisms at the base of the marine food web.

Dr James Clark, a Marine Ecosystem Modeller at PML said: "While microbeads used in cosmetic products may represent a small fraction of the total amount of plastic entering the marine environment, banning their use is a good first step that demonstrates an awareness of the problem.

"Ultimately, we also need to reduce the amount of plastic entering the oceans from other sources. Improvements in product design and waste management practices, and the application of circular economy principles to plastic use would all help to achieve this.

"Here at PML we are working with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation on a New Plastic Economy Initiative, funded by the People's Postcode Lottery, to rethink the future of plastics."

As cosmetic microbeads are only one part of the wider issue of microplastic pollution, the Committee also recommended via the report that the Government draw up a plan for assessing and tackling the microplastic pollution more broadly.

You may be interested in...


Sizing up the microscopic

Researchers from PML and the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) embark this week on the collaborative annual research cruise Atlantic Meridional Transect (AMT) programme, where, amongst other projects, they aim to further understand how tiny pieces of plastic litter are affec...


Plastic pollution threatens one of the ocean’s key inhabitants

Microscopic plastic pollution, which is present throughout the world’s seas, could affect the feeding habits of one of the ocean's key inhabitants – the copepod; a tiny animal with a highly important role within marine food webs.


PML contributes to Science in Parliament

Last year, PML scientist Dr Pennie Lindeque gave a presentation to the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee at Westminster, contributing expert knowledge to the meeting “What are we going to do about plastics?”.