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Defra response to microplastics coverage

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There has been coverage today in the Daily Mail and the Times of a Good Morning Britain investigation carried out with Portsmouth University into microplastic particles in the air inside our homes.

We are working to prevent plastic from entering the environment in the first place by eliminating the most problematic plastics; we have already banned microbeads in rinse-off personal care products. Our 5p plastic bag charge has reduced sales by 95% in the major supermarkets and we have now increased this to 10p and extended it to all retailers.

We have also introduced restrictions on the supply of single-use plastic straws, stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds. We are going further, and have recently announced our intention to consult on banning single-use plastic plates, cutlery and expanded polystyrene drinks containers. As well as this, from April 2022, a tax of £200 per tonne will apply to plastic packaging that does not contain at least 30% recycled content, which will encourage businesses to seek greener alternatives.

We have also funded research to examine wider sources of microplastics, including tyres and textiles. This research will help to inform future policy.

We are also cleaning up the air we breathe. Our Clean Air Strategy sets out how we will go further and faster in reducing people’s exposure to particulate matter pollution. The action we have set out will reduce the costs of air pollution to society by an estimated £1.7 billion every year by 2020, rising to £5.3 billion every year from 2030.

A Defra spokesperson said:

We are working to prevent plastic from entering the environment in the first place by eliminating the most problematic plastics and while air pollution at a national level has reduced significantly since 2010, we’re continuing to take action through our Clean Air Strategy.

Through our 25 Year Environment Plan, we have pledged to eliminate all avoidable waste, supporting the water industry to significantly increase water fountains, working with retailers on introducing plastic-free supermarket aisles and removing all consumer single use plastics from the central government estate offices.

Our landmark Environment Bill delivers key aspects of our Strategy. The Bill establishes a duty for the Secretary of State to set a legally binding target for fine particulate matter, the pollutant of most harm to health, alongside at least one further long-term air quality target. As set out in a policy paper published in August 2020, we’re also specifically looking at average population exposure to PM2.5 across England and setting an additional long-term target on this.

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