Environment Secretary Michael Gove today pledged action to reduce plastic waste choking our oceans as he set out his ambition for the UK to lead the world in environmental protection.

Around eight million tonnes of plastic makes its way into our oceans each year, posing a serious threat to our natural and marine environment – experts estimate plastic is ingested by 31 species of marine mammals and over 100 species of sea birds.

As new figures published today revealed more than nine billion fewer plastic bags were used since the government introduced a 5p charge, an 83 per cent reduction, the Environment Secretary set out further plans to prevent other sources of plastic finding their way into our oceans and seas during a speech entitled ‘Delivering a Green Brexit’ today.

Speaking at WWF UK on Friday morning, Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “Eight million tonnes of plastic are discarded into the world’s oceans each year, putting marine wildlife under serious threat.

“In October 2015, the government introduced the 5p carrier bag charge. Figures released today show that policy’s enormous success – nine billion fewer carrier bags distributed since the charge was introduced, a fall of 83 per cent. More than £95million raised from the charge has been donated to environmental, educational and other good causes.”

The Green Blue, the RYA’s joint environment campaign with British Marine, has welcomed today’s announcement that legislation will be introduced this year to ban the sale and manufacture of microbeads – tiny pieces of plastic that are easily swallowed by marine life – in cosmetics and personal care products such as toothpastes and shower gels.

Last year the government launched a consultation on banning microbeads in personal care products, which have such a devastating effect on marine life. The Green Blue supported the proposed ban and is mindful that people having showers on boats without greywater holding tanks will be contributing to the amount of microbeads in the ocean possibly without realising it.

Kate Fortnam, Campaign Manager of The Green Blue, said: "As boaters we all have a vested interest in protecting the environment where we spend our leisure time. Grey water discharge from sinks and showers can be very damaging to sensitive aquatic life.

“There is an array of highly effective natural sustainable options that have a hugely reduced impact on the environment, so we urge boaters to think carefully about the impact of their grey water discharge." 

Mr Gove added: “There is more we can do to protect our oceans, so we will explore new methods of reducing the amount of plastic - in particular plastic bottles - entering our seas, improve incentives for reducing waste and litter, and review the penalties available to deal with polluters - all part of a renewed strategy on waste and resources that looks ahead to opportunities outside the EU.”

For advice on how to maintain, equip and operate your boat in an environmentally friendly manner visit http://thegreenblue.org.uk/Boat-Users