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Government to oppose Greens' bid to ban microbeads, claiming bill breaches EU rules

The bill, which bans the manufacture and sale of products with microbeads, has been criticised as “very restricted”.

The chair of Britain’s Environmental Audit Committee, Mary Creagh, told the BBC that a single shower can result in 100,000 plastic particles entering the ocean.
The chair of Britain’s Environmental Audit Committee, Mary Creagh, told the BBC that a single shower can result in 100,000 plastic particles entering the ocean.
Image: Shutterstock/MosayMay

Updated 5pm

THE GOVERNMENT IS to oppose a Green Party bill which looks to ban microbeads and microplastics often found in cosmetics.

The proposed legislation is due to be debated in both houses of the Oireachtas tomorrow – with Fianna Fáil also proposing a bill of its own on the matter.

Minister Simon Coveney told Cabinet today that the government was supportive of banning microbeads in principle, but said imposing a ban at this stage would go against Article 33 and 35 of the EU treaty which guarantee the free movement of goods.

Microbeads are tiny balls of plastic – smaller than 5mm but usually between 0.0004-1.24 mm wide – which are most common in soaps, shower gels and facial scrubs, used to exfoliate your skin. They are also found in some toothpastes and abrasive cleaners.

Because of their size, it’s very difficult to remove microbeads from sea and riverbeds, and can be ingested by wildlife, can attract other pollutants, and impact human health.

Green Party Senator Grace O’Sullivan’s Micro-Plastic and Micro-Bead Pollution Prevention Bill 2016 is calling for a ban on the manufacturing and sale of microbeads.

To do so would be an offence and the bill provides for a fine on prosecution of up to €10,000 for each item for sale, sold, or manufactured.

Opposition

shutterstock_321213872 Source: Shutterstock/Nik Merkulov

Fianna Fáil also has a bill of its own to ban microbeads.

In a statement released to TheJournal.ie, Timmy Dooley spokesperson on Communications, Environment and Natural Resources said that he is working on a ‘better, tougher’ bill:

Fianna Fáil are committed to banning the use of these terrible products and I hope to shortly bring forward a more robust bill on the matter.
In our view the Green Party’s bill, while moving in the right direction, is very restricted and applies only to a small range of products.
Given the interaction with Europe on this matter, we need to make sure that we get any Irish legislation right – that’s what our team are working on right now.

The Housing, Planning and Local Government previously said it supported “the principle of banning of microbeads”, but stated a timeframe is needed before a blanket ban is introduced so that the “industry has time to adapt”.

Climate Change Minister Denis Naughten said previously that he is aware the EU has been discussing tackling the issue of microbeads.

It’s a huge and growing problem, not just in this country but internationally.

“The EU is also looking at this issue. I think there is a role for the EU in relation to this but in Ireland as well, to look at banning microbeads getting into our water systems because they’re having a huge impact in relation to our fish stocks, and in relation to our clean water standards.”

The US and Canada banned the use of microbeads last year, while British MPs have called for a global ban of microbeads in August of this year.

O’Sullivan said previously that it was on the back of the government’s vocal support of bills that encouraged them to propose legislation.

A government spokesperson said the government would be happy to engage with stakeholders on the issue in the future.

Additional reporting Christina Finn 

Read: Ireland could be next to ban microbeads (if politicians can agree on it)

Read: Poll: Would you accept a “modest” water charge?

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