Greenpeace praises Government's microbeads move

In a rare move, Greenpeace has congratulated the Government on an environmental policy.

Environment minister Nick Smith today announced a proposal to ban the sale of personal care products containing plastic microbeads because of the long-term risk they pose to the marine environment.

Those who enjoy the exfoliating effect of tiny plastic beads will soon have to seek out other products if the ban goes ahead.

"These very small beads accumulate, are not biodegradable and end up causing a substantive problem for both fish and species like mussels," he says.

The US and Canada have already banned products containing the beads and the UK is also considering stopping their use because the beads don't break down and end up in waterways - where marine animals can mistake them for food and eat them, causing long term damage.

"The risk for New Zealand is if we don't move we'll end up as a dumping ground for companies that aren't able to sell them," says Mr Smith.

Greenpeace usually criticises the Government's environment efforts - not this time.

We would welcome any new regulation that will produce an outright ban to protect our oceans," says Greenpeace's Amanda Larsson.

Countdown is already phasing out plastic microbead ingredients and the representative for manufacturers says the ban is a waste of time.

"The reality is even if we did nothing, microbeads will disappear from the New Zealand market," says Garth Wyllie, chief executive of Employers and Manufacturers' Association.

The Greens say if the Government was serious about reducing plastic waste in the ocean it would tax single-use plastic bags.

"This is definitely a way for them to score some environmental points when they desperately need to be seen to be doing something to protect the environment," says Denise Roche.

But Mr Smith says plastic bags can be easily recycled - unlike microbeads

"There is no practical way that a New Zealander can take the plastic beads in these products, somehow sieve them out and prevent them from getting into the marine environment."