Environmental campaigners have joined forces with politicians and business leaders in demanding urgent action to tackle the distribution of billions of plastic “personal care” sachets.

In an open letter published online, a coalition called A Plastic Planet is calling for so-called “sample” sachets – which can contain products such as detergent, shower gel or perfume – to be included in wider UK and EU single-use bans.

The personal and home care industries use an estimated 122bn sachets a year for single doses of products, typically given away to encourage sales of full-size versions. The sachets are generally thrown away and rarely recycled.

The coalition says there has been little action to tackle the scourge of plastic sachets, which are also used by the food industry for ketchup and other condiments. The UK’s single-use plastics ban, introduced on 1 October, covers only plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds. Similarly, sachets are not covered by the EU single-use plastics directive, which is set to outlaw a host of throwaway items next year.

The letter has attracted cross-party support in the UK from 22 parliamentarians including John Randall, a former environment adviser to Theresa May when she was prime minister, and the Labour MP and former shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

Sian Sutherland, a co-founder of A Plastic Planet, said: “We’ve seen governments across the world crow about bans on single-use plastics, but the sample sachet is a huge piece of the pollution puzzle. The hundreds of billions of sample sachets pumped out by the personal and home care industries each year are used to drive instant sales but will pollute the planet for centuries.”