After calls from leading scientists to ban microbeads, as well as delays in an incoming EU legislation, it looks like Ireland are going to lead the way by outlawing the harmful by-product.
Microbeads are a minuscule plastic product that usually measure between 0.0004-1.24 mm wide, and are used for the purposes of cleansing and exfoliation. The trend in recent years has seen the use of microbeads appear in a wide range of cosmetics and household items including beauty, skincare, handwash and bathing products.
Denis Naughten, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, told a European Council meeting of EU environment ministers in Malta that;
“While we fully support a coordinated approach across the EU in banning microplastics which end up in our rivers and seas, the Irish government has decided to proceed on its own plan to reduce the amount of plastic which ends up in our waters.”
This means that Ireland will be pushing forward to introduce their own ban on all manner of microbeads, be they in toothpaste, cosmetics, cleaners or other associated products.
“A single shower can lead to 100,000 microbeads going into our waterways,” added Naughten, “it’s a huge and growing problem, not just in Ireland but internationally as well. Quite rightly the EU is currently looking at this issue and there is a role for the EU in relation to this but in Ireland it has serious consequences for our fish stocks and clean water standards.”
The primary issue with microbeads is that they re-enter the ecosystem through the food chain, as many marine animals and fish believe them to be food. This, essentially, introduces an unnecessary plastic into the food that we eat. All for the sake of a beauty trend?
According to The Journal.ie; “The government previously called the Green Party’s proposal of €10,000 per product containing microbeads excessive, as one company could end up paying €1 million for 10 products.”
The difference that we can make as consumers is to be alert and to avoid products which contain these hazardous plastics until a full ban is implemented.