Minister Smith has opened public consultation on a proposed ban of the manufacture and sale of personal care products containing microbeads in NZ under the Waste Minimisation Act 2008.
The issue of plastic microbeads has gained global attention as we have become aware of the damage these pervasive small grains of plastic cause when released into the environment. Microbeads are plastic beads less than 5mm in size. They are added to products to give texture, act as an abrasive or bulking agent, prolong shelf-life of the product, or provide visual interest.
The problem with plastic microbeads is that they are too small to be retrieved, they are cumulative and they do not biodegrade. Recent studies have shown they can be mistaken by marine life as food, causing long-term damage to aquatic animals like fish and mussels. This also poses a potential threat to human health as these sea creatures are caught and sold as kaimoana.
The use of plastic microbeads in personal care products makes no sense when there are suitable alternatives; especially as these products – such as facial scrubs, toothpaste and body wash – are designed to be washed straight down the drain. Two of the most popular polymers used are polyethylene and polypropylene.
Consultation closes on 28 February 2017. If you want to learn more about microbeads visit our web pages.