The deadline for a public consultation on a potential microbeads ban in Ireland is set to pass this Friday, 24 March.
Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Simon Coveney, launched the consultation in February.
Mr Coveney has outlined the need to introduce wide-ranging marine legislation in 2017. This includes a ban on plastic microbeads in cosmetics, body care products and some cleaning products.
The minister blocked a move by Green Party Senator Grace O’Sullivan to introduce similar legislation last year. Her plan also included plans to monitor levels of microplastics in Irish waters.
While welcoming Ms O’Sullivan’s “sincere effort”, Mr Coveney said he could not support the bill as it failed to include detergents and scouring agents. He also said that it did not include sufficient investigative or enforcement powers.
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. Roughly four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometre are littering the deep sea.
It is estimated that eight million tonnes of plastic leak into our oceans every year. Five trillion pieces of plastic debris are floating in the ocean, weighing a whopping 268,940 tons – the equivalent of almost 25,000 Dublin buses.
Microbeads 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.
According to Ms O’Sullivan, any potential microbeads ban should only be a first step.
She said that the Green Party will continue to put pressure on government to comply with its obligations under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.
The Directive calls on member states to adopt measures to protect the marine environment, and mitigate harm caused by plastics to coastal and marine environments.
The public consultation on the ban is available at the following link: https://goo.gl/NwiQSL