New Zealand to Ban Production, Sale of Plastic Microbeads

A man working at a wastewater treatment plantNew Zealand will ban the production and sale of plastic microbeads, which are considered to be harmful to aquatic and marine environments.

According to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, the Cabinet approved the proposed ban on Dec. 4 that would take effect by June 2018 after a transition period. The regulation follows through on the previous government’s plans to end microbead production.

Unfiltered Waste

While wastewater and sewage systems in NZ have become more modernised, microbeads are so small that filter systems have been unable to contain them. They usually measure less than 5mm in size. You can find microbeads in household products such as facial cleansers, bath scrubs and toothpaste, according to Ardern.

Since they can not be retrieved or recycled, they pose a great deal of harm to marine and aquatic life. Fish and other animals could mistake them for food, thus causing “long-term damage,” according to Minister for the Environment David Parker. An estimated 10,000 tonnes of plastic microbeads originate from global production every year. In New Zealand, there are around 100 personal care products that use them for exfoliation or polishing purposes.

Transition Period

The six-month window for the ban’s implementation will provide manufacturers and retailers to stop using microbeads. Some companies, however, have already begun to take action. Since July, New World, Pak ‘n’ Save, Four Square, Foodstuffs and Countdown have stopped selling products with microbeads on their stores.

The Environmental Protection Authority will enforce the ban, which received more than 16,000 submissions in favour of the rule from different groups such as the New Zealand Product Stewardship Council and Seafood NZ. Any company that fails to comply will face up to $100,000 of fines.


The proposed ban will be beneficial to the marine environment. Those that plan to contribute more to marine and aquatic life preservation should also consider natural ways to treat sewage and wastewater.