After much lobbying to officially ban the use of microbeads in Ireland, a law is due to be passed in cabinet which will officially do so
After it was announced that an Irish Bill is to be introduced that will ban the sale, manufacture, import and export of products containing plastic microbeads, it has emerged this will soon be brought into law. The Government, according to reports, has agreed to publish the law.
They were banned in the US in 2015 and last year in the UK.
The Bill was announced last year but has been subjected to delays. And while various political parties such as the Green Party and Labour have introduced their own Bills on banning microbeads, the government argued they were "significantly flawed."
Green Party Senator Grace O’Sullivan’s Micro-Plastic and Micro-Bead Pollution Prevention Bill 2016 was originally opposed by government as it said it breached EU law.
What are microbeads?
Less than 5mm in diameter, these tiny exfoliating plastic beads can be found in body scrub and beauty products like soaps, body washes, and even toothpaste. They are extremely environmentally unfriendly due to such their inability to be caught by water filtration systems - they are too small. As such, beads end up in lakes or rivers, where they build up as plastic pollution and are often mistaken by fish for food.
Microbeads are non-biodegradable. Each year, an estimated 8 million metric tonnes of plastics enter the ocean, and it's estimated that currently, 150 million metric tonnes circulate in our marine environments
To give you further insight as to how damaging even using them in small doses can be, there are about 100,000 microbeads in a facewash product. A single shower can result in 100,000 plastic particles entering the ocean, according to a report in the Irish Times.
What can we use instead?
You could DIY it and use whole oats. Oats are one of the most gentle natural exfoliants, perfect for those with sensitive skin. In the same way oats soak up milk in porridge, they soak up excess oil on the skin and work perfectly when ground in a blender and added to water to make a paste. Jojoba is another alternative. These are beads which come from jojoba oil – a liquid wax derived from the jojoba shrub. They are also biodegradable and come in a variety of colours and shapes.
Or, off the shelf, maybe an excellent glycolic acid exfoliate?
Main photograph: Unsplash