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Minister Murphy announces the EU’s clearance for prohibition of microbeads

Published on Thursday, 24 Oct 2019

Minister Eoghan Murphy last night (23 October, 2019) announced the European Commission’s clearance for the restrictions on microbeads contained in the Microbeads (Prohibition) Bill 2019.

He made the announcement, at An Taisce’s Clean Coasts “Love Your Coast” Photography Awards in The Morrison Hotel, Dublin 1. The awards night celebrated the 10th anniversary of the “Love Your Coast” photography competition.

The Minister welcomed the green light from the European Commission for his proposals. This will now facilitate further consideration of the Microbeads (Prohibition) Bill 2019 at Committee State in the Dáil.

The Microbeads (Prohibition) Bill will provide for a prohibition of the manufacture, import, export or sale of products containing intentionally added plastic microbeads, to include “rinse-off” personal care products, detergents, and domestic and industrial abrasive cleaning products and scouring agents.

As the Bill intends to restrict the import and sale of certain products containing intentionally added plastic microbeads, it could result in restricting the free movement of these goods within the Single market. The Minister submitted a derogation notification for the Bill to the European Commission on 19 July 2019, along with detailed technical documentation supporting the justification for the restriction on environment grounds. This notification carried with it a three month standstill period during which time the legislation could not be enacted in compliance with EU legislation. The three month standstill period concluded on 21 October.

The Minister said,

"Now that the standstill period has been concluded, I look forward to working with my Oireachtas colleagues at Committee Stage at the earliest opportunity so that we can have this Bill in force as soon as possible."

Minister Murphy went on to say that,

“While several States legislated to prohibit personal care products containing plastic microbeads Ireland will be the first EU Member State to extend such prohibition to detergents, abrasive scouring agents and other cleaning products."

Plastic microbeads represent only one element of the microplastics in our oceans. However, it is estimated that many billions are being washed down the drain and into the world’s rivers, lakes and seas each year. Once in our rivers and seas, they can last for centuries without breaking down. Aquatic animals may ingest them and they cannot be removed once they are in the marine environment. 

The Minister said

"I am increasingly concerned about the potential risk posed to our aquatic ecosystems by microplastic litter, including plastic microbeads. I know this concern is shared widely, across all parties in the Oireachtas and throughout broader society.   While this is an important step, it is only one of many measures we will have to introduce over the coming years to reduce the level of litter and plastic pollution entering our seas and oceans”

In addition to introducing national legislation, the Government has been actively supporting the development of measures at EU-level to tackle plastic waste including through the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy adopted in January 2018.

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