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New Zealand to ban plastic microbeads by July 2018

A consultation document released by New Zealand’s Environment ministry proposes to ban personal care products containing plastic microbeads from 1 July 2018. The move parallels similar initiatives being taken in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, the European Union and Australia to ban tiny plastic microbeads, citing environmental & health concerns.

Announcing the ban, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith said:

We are proposing a ban on the sale and manufacture of personal care products in New Zealand containing microbeads because of the long-term risk they pose to our aquatic and marine environments. This initiative is part of a global push to reduce the amount of plastic culminating in the oceans, with estimates indicating there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050. The use of plastic microbeads in personal care products like facial cleansers and toothpaste makes no sense when there are biodegradable alternatives like apricot kernels and ground nuts products that achieve the same results.

The ban is expected to affect more than 100 cosmetic products currently under sale in New Zealand. Companies who continued to sell products containing microbeads would face a maximum fine of $100,000 under the proposal.

Microbeads are small pieces of plastic less than 5mm in diameter used as exfoliants and cleansers in toiletries but are not removed by wastewater treatment plants. They then find their way into oceans, lakes and rivers where the plastic is ingested by a variety of organisms. It’s estimated about 10,000 tonnes a year of plastic microbeads are used globally.

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