The Government should get on and ban plastic microbeads in cosmetics and cleaning products instead of waiting until next year, the Green Party says.
Environment Minister Nick Smith yesterday released a document recommending the tiny non-dissolvable granules - that are common in toothpaste, exfoliating body scrubs and other household products - be scrapped in July 2018.
In New Zealand, 100 varieties of bathroom products contain the little beads and a single shower can release 100,000 of the abrasive granules into the ocean.
From there, they absorb toxins and end up in the bellies of fish, and eventually our food chain.
"We've got a long-term responsibility to the marine environment to minimise these sorts of plastics ending up there where the cause a problem for fish and aquatic life," Dr Smith said.
The document is open for consultation until the end of next month, but while welcoming the ban, Green Party co-leader James Shaw says it has been a long time coming.
"I can't see why we have to waste yet more time consulting when in fact the tide is going out on the use of these kinds of products anyway," he said.
The Government is following the US, Britain and Canada in introducing a ban on the beads, and cosmetic companies have already started phasing them out across the world.
The Environment Protection Agency will police the ban in New Zealand, with companies facing a maximum fine of $100,000.
However, Mr Shaw says the Government still isn't doing enough to remove plastic from our oceans.
"The most effective thing to do, if we were really serious about our marine environment, would be to place a tax on the use of plastic bags that you get in your shopping," he said.
But the Minister says the bag numbers are small.
"If we look at the marine litter and the standard shopping bag that ends up in the marine environment in New Zealand, those numbers are very, very small," Dr Smith said.
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