Australia yet to enforce legislation ban on microbeads

Image Source: Science X

By Emily Schinella | @White_Dollhouse

Australia is yet to enforce legislation on the prohibition of the use of microbeads, despite over 10 countries already making the move.

Microbeads are small solid plastic particles made out of polyethylene and polystyrene that are no bigger than a millimetre.

According to the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS), microbeads are usually found in skin care products, including facial exfoliants and body scrubs, as well as toothpaste and soap.

In recent years, many have been critical of the impact of microbeads, which has led to several countries, including the US, banning them from commercial use.

Scientist and founder of the certified organic skincare brand Y natural Barbara Gare said micro-beads are mainly viewed as problematic due to their environmental impact.

“They’re a sediment, which means the particles (microbeads) can’t be filtered out when they wash down our drains, so they pollute our waterways, “ she said.

“The main impact is bio-accumulation. Which is when something really small filters out those particles and then comes along and eats that. And then those smaller fish are eaten by bigger fish, which creates a cycle.”

Over 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic are believed to be spread throughout the world’s oceans.

Even the remote oceans of Antarctica were found to have 50,000 plastic particles per square kilometre.

Aside from being hazardous to the environment, it’s also suggested that microbeads could be hazardous for humans.

According to Ms Gare, bio-accumulation can also affect humans, as microbead particles could be present in the fish we eat.

The AMCS mirrored Ms Gare’s statements, adding that the size and durability of micro-beads make them difficult, if not impossible to break down, which is why they should be banned.

“As state wards on an incredible marine natural heritage, Australia could and should be a world leader in stopping plastic pollution,” said Anna Frank, Operations Coordinator at the AMCS.

Discussion over potentially banning Microbeads dates back to 2016 when the Environmental Ministers hosted a meeting with other MPs on the subject.

Environmental Minister Melissa Price told Chemical Watch back in 2018 that voluntarily removing micro-beads was “well within our timeframes”.

Ms Price also said that come mid-2018, if micro-beads haven’t voluntarily been removed from Australian stores, the government will look at legislating a ban.

The government likely isn’t opposed to banning chemicals based on their environmental impact, as they have done it in the past according to environmental lawyer, Suzanne Dickey.

“There is legislation governing certain pesticides and agricultural chemicals, those might illustrate how a particular substance is banned, ” said Ms Dickey.

However, Ms Dickey acknowledged that whilst there are environmental protection laws, there is very little legislation on individual environmental issues, such as microbeads and other plastics.

“Very few Commonwealth laws address major environmental issues such as clean water, clean air and waste. There is the EPBC Act (The Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act), but it is limited in application.”

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