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Marine Life & Conservation

A Christmas facial – a treat for your skin but a disaster for our seas, say the MCS

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Lots of people will treat themselves to some extra beauty therapies over the festive period, or give facial products as a pampering gift – but although these items may make our skin look and feel good, they’re giving our seas anything but a make-over.

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and Fauna & Flora International (FFI) are warning shoppers that many personal care products like scrubs and peels now contain plastic particles, and these can have a devastating effect on the marine environment.

Every time we exfoliate or peel off dead cells with many of the leading scrubs and washes, and then rinse them off, the tiny bits of plastic go down the drain and that means we are flushing plastic into our seas where it contributes to a growing problem of plastic pollution.

Dr Sue Kinsey, MCS Litter Policy Officer, says: “It’s incredible how many everyday products contain microplastic beads. These find their way through our sewers and into our seas where they are easily eaten by all sorts of marine animals and could ultimately end up back in the human food chain. These bits of plastic are so small that our sewage works cannot deal with them, so when used they are essentially washed straight to river and sea”.

Although a number of leading manufacturers of beauty products have already stopped or have promised to phase out the use of microbeads in peels, scrubs and washes, (including Unilever, Lush and the Body Shop), many firms are still using them.

MCS and FFI say shoppers can play an important role in helping to put pressure on manufacturers who are dragging their feet over the issue of microbeads in their products. Consumers can check out those products already free of beads by using the Good Scrub Guide, which can be found here.

Tanya Cox, FFI’s Marine Plastics Officer, says: “Microplastic pollution is having a profound impact on the health of our oceans and demands urgent attention. FFI is really encouraged to see leading UK retailers and producers of personal care products proactively replacing damaging microplastic exfoliants with biodegradable alternatives and urge all companies to take such positive action to minimise this source of microplastic pollution”.

MCS and FFI will be working together closely in the New Year to champion positive action on behalf of forward thinking, UK companies who actively remove microplastics from their product lines. Together, MCS and FFI will use the Good Scrub Guide and supporting smartphone App – the Beat the Micro Bead App – to illustrate the number of plastic-free face scrubs available on the UK market to help keep Britain’s consumers informed at each step of the way.

MCS and FFI encourage consumers to help populate the Good Scrub Guide and the App by by letting them know which of your favourite products do and don’t contain plastic. Those with plastics will have some of these ingredients listed:

Polyethylene / Polythene (PE)

Polypropylene (PP)

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)

Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA)

Nylon

When you’ve spotted these in the ingredients list, all you have to do is fill in a simple form which can be found here and MCS will do the rest.

Marine Life & Conservation

Jeff chats to… Paul Cox, CEO of the Shark Trust about the Big Shark Pledge (Watch Video)

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In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-Large, chats to Paul Cox, CEO of the Shark Trust UK about the Big Shark Pledge.

The Big Shark Pledge aims to build one of the biggest campaigning communities in the history of shark conservation. To put pressure on governments and fisheries. And make the positive changes required to safeguard awesome sharks and rays.

Find out more at: www.bigsharkpledge.org and www.sharktrust.org.


Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Marine Conservation Society to take legal action over ocean sewage spills

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The Marine Conservation Society is announcing joining as co-claimant in a legal case against the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to protect English seas from sewage dumping.  

The legal case seeks to compel the Government to rewrite its Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan 2022, impose tighter deadlines on water companies and redevelop the Plan to effectively apply to coastal waters which are, currently, almost entirely excluded.  

Sandy Luk, Marine Conservation Society CEOUntreated sewage is being pumped into our seas for hundreds of thousands of hours each year; putting people, planet and wildlife at risk. 

We’ve tried tirelessly to influence the UK Government on what needs to be done, but their Plan to address this deluge of pollution entering our seas is still unacceptable. We owe it to our members, supporters and coastal communities to act, which is why we’ve joined as co-claimants on this case. We’re out of options. Our seas deserve better.”  

Launched and funded by the Good Law Project, the Marine Conservation Society will stand as co-claimants on the case with Richard Haward’s Oysters, and surfer and activist, Hugo Tagholm. 

Before reaching this point, the charity responded to a government consultation in March 2022 and met with DEFRA to express concern. In August 2022, the charity wrote an open letter to DEFRA outlining the ways in which the proposed Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan fails to protect the environment and public health from dumping raw sewage into the sea. However, the Plan hasn’t been amended and still fails to adequately address water companies’ excessive reliance on storm overflows and the harm their heavy use causes to our ocean. 

The plan virtually excludes most coastal waters (except for bathing waters) either directly or indirectly, with some types of Marine Protected Areas and shellfish waters totally excluded. 600 storm overflows are not covered at all by the Plan and will continue to – completely legally – be able to dump uncontrolled amounts of sewage directly into English seas and beaches. What’s more, the Plan lacks all urgency – with long-term targets set for 2050, and the earliest, most urgent targets not to be met until 2035.  

Meanwhile, Marine Conservation Society analysis finds that raw sewage is pouring into the ocean at an alarming rate. In total, there are at least 1,651 storm overflows within 1km of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in England. These overflows spilt untreated sewage 41,068 times in 2021. Of these, almost half the overflows spilt more than 10 times in 2021, with an average of 48 spills for each of those overflows. Overall, in 2021, sewage poured into Marine Protected Areas for a total of 263,654 hours. 

According to DEFRA’s own latest assessments, only 19% of estuaries and and 45% of coastal waters are at ‘good ecological status’, with none meeting ‘good chemical status’, and three quarters (75%) of shellfish waters failing to meet water quality standards. 

Rachel Wyatt, Policy & Advocacy Manager for Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation SocietyUntreated sewage contains a cocktail of bacteria, viruses, harmful chemicals, and microplastics. It’s nearly impossible to remove microplastics and ‘forever chemicals’ once in the environment. Due to their persistence, with every discharge, these pollutants will continue to increase, meaning eventually they will pass – or may have already passed – a threshold of harm.”  

In addition, it’s not just invisible toxins that are causing problems. In September this year at the charity’s annual Great British Beach Clean, sewage related pollution, such as wet wipes and sanitary products, were found on 73% of the beaches surveyed across England.  

A new DEFRA report, Ocean Literacy in England and Wales, shows that 85% of people say marine protection is personally important to them. Yet this is being ignored. 

Emma Dearnaley, Legal Director at the Good Law Project, said: “The Marine Conservation Society is at the forefront of tackling the ocean emergency and standing up for coastal communities impacted by climate change and pollution. We are delighted to have them on board as a co-claimant. 

“Good Law Project will work closely with the claimants, including the Marine Conservation Society, to put forward the case for more ambitious and urgent measures to reduce sewage discharges by water companies. These sewage spills are threatening human health, biodiverse marine life and the fishing industry. We believe that taking legal action now is vital to help safeguard our coastal waters for generations to come”. 

If the case is won, the Marine Conservation Society hopes to see the UK Government amend its Plan so that it meets the DEFRA Secretary of State’s legal obligations to protect the ocean and its inhabitants from raw sewage spills.   

For more visit the Marine Conservation Society website.

Header image credit: Natasha Ewins

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