The New Zealand government has announced it will ban make-up and beauty products that contain spherical plastic beads, or microbeads, out of concern about their impact on waterways and marine life. These tiny plastic particles can usually be found in face washes, body scrubs, sunscreens, toothpaste and acne treatment products, where they are used as exfoliating agents. Due to their small size, microbeads are not filtered out in treatment plants and, once they escape into rivers and oceans, they cause long-term damage to aquatic animals.

In announcing the ban, Environment Minister Nick Smith said he had been disappointed to find several products containing beads still available in NZ supermarkets. Other countries have already moved to ban microplastics from cosmetics, including the UK which will enforce a ban from the end of this year.

"Banning microbeads in personal care products is a great step forward that will remove one source of microplastics entering the oceans," said Dr Sally Gaw of the Department of Chemistry, University of Canterbury. "Further steps will be required to reduce the enormous volume of plastics entering our oceans each year. We need to re-evaluate our love affair with plastic, and get smarter about how and when we use plastic if we are to protect our oceans."

However, there are some New Zealand beauty brands that will not be affected by this ban such as Weleda, Medik8, Katherine Daniels and Manuka Doctor who all provide microbead-free products. “At Weleda we are all for keeping the environment clean and green and we definitely support this ban on microbeads in personal care products. Our 100% certified natural Birch Body Scrub contains natural beeswax and plant wax pearls to gently exfoliate and smoothen the skin. We do not use artificial ingredients, preservatives, fragrances, GMOs nor do we test on animals,” said Helen Wilkes, Weleda NZ's Marketing Manager.