The British Plastics Federation (BPF) has contested claims that plastic waste in the river Thames poses a health risk.
On 2 January, the Guardian newspaper reported the findings of a study by scientists from the Natural History Museum and Royal Holloway University of London, which concluded that the Thames was polluted by a significant amount of plastics.
Larger pieces of plastics broke down into “microplastic” fragments that were easily ingested by birds, fish and smaller species such as crabs, they said.
Similar reports highlighted the risk of toxic chemicals from plastics being introduced into food chains this way, according to the Guardian.
The BPF said that chemicals used in the manufacture of plastics were so heavily regulated and controlled by the European regulation known as REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) that the danger was very low.
“The toxic risk to the Thames and ultimately to consumers from a plastics product being irresponsibly discarded is infinitesimally tiny, if indeed it exists at all,” it said.
“If used products are turning up in these quantities in the Thames then this just underlines the need for stiffer penalties applied for littering, dumping and fly-tipping,” it added.
The BPF argued that London suffered from the absence of litterbins removed in response to terrorist actions.
Pollution from biodegradable plastics has become a political issue, after MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee warned currently available biodegradable plastic bags do not fully break down all the particles which are harmful to the marine environment.
It said this was a major cause for concern over single-use carrier bags.