Coastal and Freshwater news

Dr Louis Tremblay at work in the lab - Photo by Tim Cuff
17 January 2017

Cawthron Institute welcomes Government proposal to ban microbeads

The Cawthron Institute has welcomed the announcement by the Minister for the Environment Nick Smith to ban the sale of personal care products containing plastic microbeads.

The beads are persistent environmental pollutants and there are more than 15 trillion pieces of microplastic debris estimated to be in the world’s oceans.

Cawthron Coastal and Freshwater scientist Dr Louis Tremblay advised, “New Zealand is not immune. Microplastic particles were detected at eight out of 10 locations on coastlines in the Canterbury region and similar scenarios are likely across NZ.

Plastic microbeads are present in many personal care and cosmetic products and they are not removed by most wastewater treatment technologies. Over the past 20 years they have been found globally in soil, water, sediment (including deep sea), and ice core samples.

Listen to Jesse Mulligan and Dr Tremblay talk about the effects of contaminants from personal care and household products on RadioNZ

“There’s evidence plastic microbeads absorb pollutants that can be transferred to organisms and increase body burden.

The risks are either physical (blockage, internal laceration, inflammation, and in the worst case mortality) or from unknown residuals or adsorbed hazardous chemicals that can pose toxicity,” said Dr Tremblay.

Cawthron Chief Executive Charles Eason said, “New Zealand’s environment is incredibly special and has an excellent international reputation.

Today’s announcement by the Minister supports this reputation, and should the ban go ahead, will help keep our oceans free of plastics and preserve our ecosystems for generations to come.”

The Government’s consultation document, Managing microbeads in personal care products, closes on 28 February 2017 with the proposed ban to take effect on 1 July 2018.


Media contact: Nicole Taber

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