Microbeads to be banned in New Zealand

Scott Simpson

Wellington, August 17, 2017
The sale and manufacture of wash-off products containing plastic microbeads will be banned in New Zealand earlier than previously expected.

Microbeads pose a high risk to our aquatic and marine environments. They are too small to retrieve or recycle, do not biodegrade, and are mistaken by marine life for food, causing long-term damage to marine animals.

The ban will take effect six months after World Trade Organisation notification, which will take place when the regulations are gazetted in November. Microbeads will be fully banned in New Zealand by May 2018.

Public consultation

We consulted in January 2017 on a proposal to ban microbeads in personal care products like facial cleansers and toothpastes. We received over 16,000 submissions that all supported a ban. Many submitters urged the Government to broaden the scope of the proposed ban to include other products containing microbeads.

In response, we have widened the scope of the ban to include all ‘wash-off’ products for visual appearance, exfoliating, cleansing or abrasive cleaning purposes that contain plastic microbeads. As well as personal care products, this includes household, car or other cleaning products.

Foodstuffs have already removed products with plastic microbeads from their shelves. Major manufacturers are also phasing out plastic microbead ingredients.

Global initiative

This ban is part of a global initiative to reduce the amount of plastic ending up in oceans. The New Zealand ban parallels similar initiatives in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, the European Union and Australia to ban or phase out plastic microbeads in products.

New Zealand is a small consumer of plastic microbead products by international comparison but this initiative is important for maintaining New Zealand’s good name in marine stewardship. We have responsibility for one of the largest areas of ocean, we have one of the best fishery management systems, we are leading with conservation measures like the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area and this initiative on microbeads will enhance our clean, green reputation.

Scott Simpson is Associate Minister for Environment.

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