microbeads microplastics ban

Tremendous response to public consultation on microbeads ban, says Minister Coveney

7th April 2017

The “tremendous” response to the public consultation on a microbeads ban outlines the Irish people’s growing concern with protecting our marine environment, says Minister Simon Coveney.

Speaking at a Sustainable Water Network (SWAN) workshop in Dublin yesterday, the Housing Minister said that over 3,000 submissions were received. The Minister outlined his delight with the response, which he said will feed into upcoming legislation.

The consultation sought opinion on a potential ban on microbeads in cosmetics, body care product, detergents and scouring agents. The deadline passed on 24 March 2017.

“Over 3,000 contributions were received, which is a tremendous response to a public consultation,” he said. “This clearly demonstrates that civil society is extremely concerned by marine environmental issues, which I find reassuring.”

Microbeads do not biodegrade and persist for a very long time in the environment, with a half-live of hundreds of years. They often end up in our waterways, seas and oceans. It is estimated that four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometre litter the deep sea.

They are just one form of microplastics, which also originate from the breakdown of larger plastic items, such as bottles. Microplastics can be as small as two to three centimeters in length and as thin as a human hair.

It is estimated that eight million tonnes of plastic leak into our oceans every year, with over five trillion pieces of plastic debris floating in the ocean, weighing a whopping 268,940 tons – the equivalent of almost 25,000 Dublin buses.

While recognising that microbeads are only a fraction of overall microplastics pollution, the Minister said that Ireland will continue to advocate for an EU-wide microbeads ban.

A Private Member’s Bill brought by Labour’s Sean Sherlock is set to be discussed next week.  The Bill looks to prohibit the manufacture, sale and importation of cosmetic product containing microplastics.

The Minister blocked a move by Green Party Senator Grace O’Sullivan to introduce similar legislation in the Seanad last year, which also included plans to monitor levels of microplastics in Irish waters.

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