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Ban on microbead products proposed

Consumer pressure has seen several cosmetic manufacturers agree to voluntarily phase-out plastic microbeads from their products. Environment Minister Nick Smith has now announced a proposal to ban sales of personal care products containing these beads.

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The range of products to be covered by the ban is yet to be determined. However, we want to see it cover not just personal care products but also other consumer goods, such as household cleaners, where microbeads are used unnecessarily.

Microbeads are tiny plastic beads added to facial scrubs, toothpastes and other products, often as abrasives and bulking agents. But there’s mounting concern about the environmental impact of these beads when they’re washed down drains and end up in the ocean.

The United Nations Environment Programme estimates a typical exfoliating shower gel can contain about as much microplastic as the bottle it comes in.

Microbeads don’t break down in the environment and research is emerging on the toxic effects they can have on marine organisms. The beads can also enter the food chain when ingested by marine species.

The Ministry for the Environment is consulting on the proposed ban, expected to take effect from 1 July 2018, the same time as a ban on the use of microbeads in rinse-off cosmetics takes effect in the US.

Submissions on the proposal close 28 February. The consultation document is available at mfe.govt.nz.

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