Voluntary Phase Out of Microbeads
Microbeads are tiny bits of plastic that are present in many facial cleansers, toiletries, and cosmetics. These wreak havoc on marine life as they ultimately end up in the ocean and become part of the food chain. Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, has threatened to introduce a law to ban microbeads if companies do not adhere to a voluntary phase-out.
State and federal ministers met at a roundtable in Sydney recently about plastic bags and microbeads. Mr. Hunt said the government was taking a "stronger stance" on this "important environmental issue" and "we will continue to work with companies towards a voluntary phase-out of microbeads." The voluntary phase out of microbeads ends in July 2018 where during this time companies have the option to remove microbeads from their products.
"However, if by 1 July 2017 it is clear that the voluntary phase-out will not achieve what is effectively a widespread ban on microbeads, the Federal Government will take action to implement a ban in law."
Surfrider applauds the minister's efforts and supports an all-out ban on microbeads in Australia. We support a complete ban on all production and sale of products containing microbeads, by July 2018, much like the recent legislation passed in the United States. We support this ban because these tiny bits of plastic are virtually impossible to keep out of the ocean when flushed down the sink and cannot be cleaned up once in the ocean. Therefore, they are ingested easily by fish and smaller animals which are in turn eaten by other animals. Plastic is passed up the food chain and continues to accumulate whatever toxins it attracted from the water. Many studies show that when we eat fish, we are also ingesting whatever plastic that fish ate.
The companies that have agreed to the voluntary phase-out include Unilever, L'Oreal, Beiersdorf (which manufactures Nivea products), Reckitt Benckiser (which manufactures Clearasil products), Johnson and Johnson, The Body Shop, Ella Bache and Clarins. Supermarkets Woolworths and Coles have also committed to phasing out their own products containing microbeads.
If you want to learn more about microbeads, what you can do to avoid them, what what products contain them, check out our Good Scrub Guide.