Ireland is set to follow the lead of the UK by signing into law the banning of microbeads in products by the end of 2018.
Our waterways are becoming clogged with plastic, but the naked eye might not notice. This is because it is in the form of microbeads, tiny pieces of plastic that are often no bigger than a grain of sand.
Microbeads are found in many household products, particularly hygiene products such as shower gels, scrubs and soap, resulting in them being washed into rivers and seas and eaten by marine life.
This results in massive damage to the natural ecosystem as the creatures struggle to deal with eating large quantities of plastic.
Now, however, this unfettered pollution is set to change in 2018 as the Irish Government has promised that legislation banning the manufacture of microbeads in the country should come into effect by the end of the year.
The Government had announced intentions to introduce a ban on microbeads at a conference in October of last year, and it was confirmed as being underway by Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute in Galway.
Speaking with RTÉ this morning (11 January), Heffernan welcomed the news just as the UK marked the introduction of a manufacturing ban on products with microbeads.
Later this year, the Government will enforce a total ban.
‘We have got to change human behaviour’
However, Heffernan added that the ban on microbeads will also need to be supported with a better understanding among the general population of their damage to the environment.
“We have got to change human behaviour. We have got to change manufacturing and industrial behaviour. We have personal choice in this. We can choose not to use single-use plastics,” he said.
“We can choose to identify where products contain microbeads and decide, at a personal level, not to use them. That’s a very powerful message to send to the market.”
Heffernan said that each year, approximately 8m tonnes of plastic enter the world’s oceans and, if this trend continues into 2050, our oceans will contain more plastic than fish.
Last September, a look at Ireland’s continental shelf found that a shallow layer of microbeads had formed in the seafloor of the country’s western continental shelf.
Additionally, the research team found that microplastic contamination is present along the shelf regardless of proximity to densely populated areas.