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New Zealand to join global movement against plastic microbeads

Xinhua, January 16, 2017 Adjust font size:

New Zealand is set to ban environmentally damaging plastic microbeads in personal care products, Environment Minister Nick Smith said Monday.

The use of plastic microbeads in products like facial cleansers and toothpaste made no sense when biodegradable alternatives like apricot kernels and ground nuts products could achieve the same results, Smith said in a statement.

"The problem with plastic microbeads is that they are too small to retrieve or recycle, they do not biodegrade, and that they are mistaken by marine life as food causing long-term damage to aquatic animals like fish and mussels," said Smith.

About 100 varieties of personal care products in New Zealand contained plastic microbeads, pieces of plastic less than 5 millimeters in diameter, most of them imported.

They included products such as deodorant, shampoo, hair conditioner, shower gel, lipstick, hair coloring, shaving cream, sunscreen, insect repellent, anti-wrinkle cream, moisturizers, hair spray, facial masks, baby care products, eye shadow and mascara.

It was estimated that more than 10,000 tons of plastic microbeads were used globally each year.

The initiative was part of a global push to reduce the amount of plastic accumulating in the oceans, the proposed New Zealand ban paralleled similar initiatives in the United States, Britain, Canada, the European Union and Australia.

"New Zealand is a small consumer of plastic microbead products by international comparison, but this initiative is important for maintaining New Zealand's good name in marine stewardship," said Smith.

The proposed ban would take effect on July 1, 2018.

Scientists welcomed the proposed ban, saying further steps were needed to prevent other forms of plastic contamination.

"Microplastics are of concern as they are widespread in oceans and have been found in an increasing number of marine animals," Sally Gaw of the University of Canterbury Department of Chemistry said in a statement.

"We need to re-evaluate our love affair with plastic, and get smarter about how and when we use plastic if we are to protect our oceans."

"We are behind the rest of the world as many countries have already banned these products." Associate Professor Mary Sewell of Auckland University's School of Biological Sciences, said in a statement. Endit