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Ireland set to ban plastic microbeads as Cabinet approves drafting of new law

Microbeads are mostly used in some soaps, shower gels and facial scrubs to exfoliate your skin.

(File photo) Microbeads in shower gel
(File photo) Microbeads in shower gel
Image: Shutterstock/KYTan

THE GOVERNMENT IS to begin drafting heads of a Bill that will ban the sale, manufacture, import and export of products containing plastic microbeads.

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Denis Naughten told his EU colleagues in April that Ireland could not wait for an EU directive to prohibit microbeads.

He said Ireland would follow the UK and France’s lead and introduce its own legislation that will ban their use. The US banned their use in 2015.

Microbeads are mostly used in some soaps, shower gels and facial scrubs to exfoliate your skin, although they can be found in toothpastes and abrasive cleaners.

The tiny plastics (usually between 0.0004-1.24 mm wide) enter the world’s waterways in their billions, and because of their size, are almost impossible to remove.

In waterways, fish and other wildlife mistake the tiny scraps of plastic for food and from there, the beads are integrated into the food chain.

While other political parties  such as the Green Party and Labour have introduced their own Bills on banning microbeads, the government argued they were ‘significantly flawed’ and accused Labour’s Bill of ‘generally confusing’ microbeads and microplastics.

Green Party Senator Grace O’Sullivan’s Micro-Plastic and Micro-Bead Pollution Prevention Bill 2016 was opposed by government as it said it breached EU law. The Bill provided for a fine on prosecution of up to €10,000 for each item for sale, sold, or manufactured which contained microbeads.

The minister told his Cabinet colleagues Ireland was pressing ahead with its own legislation due to the devastating effects of plastics – such as microbeads – are having on our oceans.

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