Greenpeace: Time to scrub out microbeads

Microbeads under the microscope (Getty)
Microbeads under the microscope (Getty)

Greenpeace is urging Environment Minister Nick Smith to move quickly with a total ban on plastic microbeads.

They're found in the likes of face washes, scrubs and shower gels, and don't break down once they're flushed into the ocean.

Sarah Yates from Greenpeace says they're completely unnecessary.

"We don't need them in the products. Lots of companies are moving towards getting rid of them, but they aren't really doing enough, and that's why we're asking the Government to take a tougher line."

Most wastewater plants can't filter out microbeads, because they're too small.

"They end up in the stomachs of aquatic life at all stages of the food chain, from plankton through to fish, dolphins and whales. Microbeads cause serious and painful health problems for these animals," says Ms Yates.

"The latest studies are showing that some juvenile fish actually prefer to eat microbeads over their natural food source, which is leading to severe behavioural changes that threaten their survival."

Some products can contain hundreds of thousands of the tiny particles. Several companies have sworn to phase them out, including The Body Shop, Progressive and Johnson & Johnson.