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New Zealanders urged to say ‘no’ to dangerous microbeads

New Zealanders urged to say ‘no’ to dangerous microbeads

An international Christchurch-based supplement and skincare company supports the Ministry for the Environment’s focus on the damaging use of plastic microbeads, and is encouraging New Zealanders not to purchase or use personal care and consumer products containing the beads.

Microbeads are tiny, non-biodegradable plastic particles made of polyethylene that absorb toxins from other pollutants and have been found to contaminate water supplies globally.

Xtend-Life Natural Products founder and chairman, Warren Matthews, said the company had been concerned about the serious threat that plastic microbeads represent to New Zealand’s waterways and marine life for some time and Xtend-Life has never used them in any of the company’s products.

The Minister for the Environment, Hon Nick Smith, has announced his Ministry will commission research into the effects that the tiny non-dissolvable plastic particles have, especially on New Zealand’s marine environment and waterways.

Says Matthews: “Many multinational beauty companies are pledging to phase out plastic microbeads, but Xtend-Life is leading the charge in New Zealand calling for the Minister’s report to contain clear action to stop the manufacture and sale of plastic microbeads in all personal care and consumer products in this country.

“We want to help consumers understand that they pose a significant threat to all marine ecosystems and are readily consumed by various species of aquatic life, passing directly into the food chain.”

The announcement followed recent moves by the United States to prohibit the sale of personal care products and cosmetics containing plastic microbeads from July 2017. The Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 will ban the sale of cosmetics containing microbeads by July 2018, and over-the-counter drugs containing plastic particles by July 2019.

The Australian government is currently pushing for a voluntary phase out of environmentally harmful items containing microbeads.

“New Zealanders may not be aware that water treatment plants here and around the world are not equipped to filter or breakdown synthetic, floating plastic particles,” Matthews said.

“It’s a sad fact that globally plastic microbeads replaced natural abrasives such as pumice due to their low cost and they have made their way into thousands of personal care products. We do not want our country or our oceans and waterways to be a dumping ground for unwanted, plastic waste.

“These products are washed down drains and enter the world’s water s where they can survive for more than 100 years, wiping out marine life as they continue on their journey around the ecosystem.

“We walk the talk and only use nature derived ingredients in our products, especially facial exfoliators such as highly effective, naturally-derived volcanic pumice and powdered apple peel.

“We’ll be offering all the support we can to help ensure that the use of damaging microbeads can be banned, and that this can be done as quickly as possible,” Matthews said.

Microbeads – the devastating facts (*)

International ocean conservation organisation, the 5 GYES Institute’s latest research into micro-plastic pollution shows:

• a single tube of face wash can contain over 330,000 microbeads
• 1,147 personal cleansing products around the world contain micro-plastic particle abrasives (microbeads)
• 663 species of marine wildlife are affected by plastic pollution through ingestion or entanglement
• micro-plastic particles attract other pollutants in the environment including PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl), flame-retardants and other industrial chemicals
• many sewerage treatment facilities do not capture synthetic, floating particles the size of microbeads that are only about 0.5 mm in diameter
• during heavy rains some treatment facilities let sewerage overflow directly into our waterways
• 43,000 plastic particles per plastic kilometre were found by 5 Gyres in Lake Erie – the fourth largest of the five Great Lakes in North America
• a single plastic particle can absorb up to 1,000,000 times more toxic chemicals than the water around it.

Matthews said a total ban on the manufacture and sale of all microbead products would be the only way to prevent pollution and further damage to our waterways and fragile marine ecosystems from completely unnecessary microbeads.

Microbeads are found in scores of personal care products including toothpaste, face and body cleansers, sunscreens, shampoos, soaps and moisturisers, but Matthews warns these polyethylene beads can actually tear the skin.

The Netherlands was the first country to announce its intent to ban the manufacture and sale of cosmetic products containing microbeads by 2016. Today, at least nine US states and numerous local jurisdictions already have bans on microbeads in personal care products.

The Canadian government announced in July last year its intention to ban the use of microbeads in personal care products, with a proposal to add microbeads to a list of toxic substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act published in August 2015.

Cosmetics Europe, which represents more than 4,000 European companies and associations in the cosmetics and personal care industry, recommended in October 2015 that its members stop using microbeads by 2020.


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