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ban the bead

Ireland can't wait for EU ban on microbeads and is pressing on with its own

The confusion around whether Ireland’s allowed to bring in its own microbead ban without permission from the EU seems to have been cleared up.

IRELAND WILL PROCEED with a ban on micro-plastic beads, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Denis Naughten has told his EU colleagues today.

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.

At an European Council meeting of EU environment ministers in Malta today, Naughten said:

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.

While other political parties 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.

shutterstock_480286438 Shutterstock / vwPix Shutterstock / vwPix / vwPix

Coveney told Cabinet in November that the government was supportive of banning microbeads in principle, but said imposing a ban at that stage would go against Article 33 and 35 of the EU treaty which guarantee the free movement of goods. However, a number of politicians disagreed with this sentiment.

Naughten has indicated that Ireland cannot wait around for an EU directive and must follow the UK and France’s lead to introduce their own, individual ban.

“A single shower can lead to 100,000 microbeads going into our waterways – 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,” added Naughten.

Previously, the government has said it’s looking at other successful models to base its own ban on microbeads on. The ban would have to include a timeframe to give companies that use microbeads in their products time to adjust.

It must also decide on the punishment if the microbeads ban is broken. 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 government recently ended a consultation on microbeads, the findings of which are due to be released soon.

With reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha

Read: Government to propose its own microbeads ban, calling other parties’ bills ‘flawed and confused’

Read: Government to oppose Greens’ bid to ban microbeads, claiming bill breaches EU rules

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