Have your say on the proposed New Zealand microbeads ban

The New Zealand Government has proposed a ban on the sale and manufacture of microbeads in personal care products under the Waste Minimisation Act 2008. The ban proposal is now open to public consultation until 5pm on Tuesday, 28th February.

Plastic Diet welcomes the initiative that the government has taken in working to join the fight again microbeads. The proposed ban is a great first step, but we need to make sure it actually happens! A comprehensive ban on microbeads in Aotearoa New Zealand must include:

1) Implementing a strong legislative ban by 2018 at the latest that does not rely on, or include, voluntary self-regulation.

2) Following the guidelines on microbeads from Flora and Fauna International, the ban should not only target rinse-off personal care products, but all cosmetics, household and industrial products containing microbeads that could go down the drain. No exceptions may be made for so-called "biodegradable" plastics in these products.

3) Prohibiting microbead products from entering New Zealand from overseas or Australia via import or the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Act.

Although the Ministry for the Environment clearly understands the significance of the issues associated with microbeads, and have shown this understanding through the proposal of this ban, we may still end up with microbead products on our shelves if we don't take action now. We've seen loopholes overseas, in countries such as the United States, where bans have applied a narrow definition of microbeads or relied on voluntary self-regulation programmes which have been proven to be ineffective.

We can't let that happen in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Help us urge Minister for the Environment, Hon. Dr. Nick Smith, to lead with a comprehensive ban on microbeads in Aotearoa by sending your submission on the proposal to ban the sale and manufacture of plastic microbeads in personal care products in New Zealand before 5pm on Tuesday 28 February!

We've included a submission draft below if you'd like to use it — otherwise, you can fill out the submission form online.


Copy and paste this submission and email it to microbeads.submissions@mfe.govt.nz.

Feel free to personalise the content.


Subject line: [Submission to the consultation on a ban on the sale and manufacture of plastic microbeads in personal care products in New Zealand]

Dear Hon. Dr. Nick Smith,

I strongly support the Government’s proposal to introduce a legislative ban on microbeads in New Zealand, which should be implemented as soon as possible. I also strongly agree with the proposal’s main objective of providing “certainty that the impacts of microbeads on New Zealand’s environment and human health are managed”. To achieve this, it is essential that the ban does not allow for industry loopholes and ineffective, voluntary self-regulation, as have been evident in bans on microbeads in other countries. Therefore, I urge the Ministry for the Environment to include the following recommendations in the legislation:

Scope of products

I agree with the intention to “define the scope of products as broadly as possible”, in order to eliminate all non-critical sources of microbeads that could end up in our waterways and oceans. I advise the Government to follow the guidelines on microbeads legislation, developed by Flora and Fauna International and advocated by the Environmental Audit Committee:

  • Any definition of ‘microbeads’ must include all solid plastic ingredients smaller than 5mm used for any purpose. There should be no lower size limit included in the definition;

  • The legislation should cover all products that are washed down the drain. This includes a wide range of cosmetic and personal care products as well as cleaning products, make-up, and other product categories;

  • Legislation should not allow so-called ‘biodegradable’ plastics to be used as alternatives, as the conditions required for these materials to degrade in the marine environment are rarely met and they are thus not a solution to the problem

  • There should be a clear and prompt timeline for phasing out these ingredients, and a date after which products containing microplastics must not be sold. This should be within two years of the ban.

I also urge the Government to not allow for substitutions with materials of persistent, water-insoluble solid or wax-like nature that could cause similar harms to aquatic species.

Importance of leading with a strong legislative ban

​I am very pleased that the Ministry is proposing a legislative ban on microbeads within a two-year time frame and wants New Zealand to be a leader in marine stewardship. Voluntary self-regulation has been proven ineffective both in New Zealand and globally, and should not be considered as an alternative to a legislative ban. In 2013, Johnson & Johnson pledged to ban polyethylene microbeads, while still keeping other harmful plastics in their products and later opposing the 2015 California ban on microbeads. New Zealand environmental organisation, Plastic Diet, also recently exposed that Progressive and Foodstuffs had failed to act on their own policies against microbeads, and still had many products for sale. For these reasons, I support the implementation of an outright and total legislative ban from a deadline of 2018.

Importation of products from overseas and Australia

To lead with the most effective legislation against microbeads, the Government must ensure that all potential sources of microbeads are managed. This includes products that could be imported from overseas for personal use. Therefore, I urge the Government to prohibit the importation of the products in scope under section 3 of the Imports and Exports (Restrictions) Act 1988. I also encourage the Government to explore all options under the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Act (i.e. exemptions for health, safety and environmental reasons) to restrict microbead products from entering New Zealand via Australia. Nearly a quarter of our cosmetic products enter our shops via Australia, and given the lack of a legislative ban on microbeads in Australia, there is no way to guarantee that these products do not contain microbeads.

Yours sincerely,

[Enter your full name]

[Enter your phone number]

[Enter your town/city]


Copy and paste this submission and email it to microbeads.submissions@mfe.govt.nz.


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